Organizational Change (In A Nutshell)

I pulled this together by combining two previous papers and whittling it down to “one page.” This section may expand again to look very like those papers when it appears in my dissertation with supporting citations. However, I may wind up cutting this section altogether in order to maintain a tighter focus in the dissertation. Still, I believe the realities of organizational change will need to be considered in any effort to introduce video games into schools – particularly at scale. In any case, this section is heavily influenced by Senge, Evans, Fullan, the DuFours, and others.

This is probably the last of the “In A Nutshell” posts… and it’s kind of fun that it will be appearing on my birthday.

Of course, I’m still open to any comments, if you’ve got any to share. :)

If a new educational technology such as video games is going to be effective and sustainable, a great deal of organizational change is often necessary. Educational technologists can look to organizational change theorists for guidance in facilitating change and overcoming resistance to change.

In order to facilitate organizational change it is important to respect the realities of change. To be successful, change agents must respect that organizational change is a complicated, difficult, and time-consuming process – especially in an educational institution. It is also important to establish mission, vision, values, and goals in an organization so that everyone involved can focus their efforts on the things that are most important. Systems thinking, as opposed to linear or rational-structural thinking, can be a positive tool for change agents to understand and use in educational institutions. Systems thinking can help make big-picture patterns clear and help educational technologists change them effectively.

In the tradition of professional learning communities, educational technologists can do their best to support personal learning, collaborative learning, and the development of leadership in their organizations. Any organizational change begins with individual change, and any change requires learning. This makes individual learning the foundation of any organizational change. Personal learning may be a necessary condition for organizational change, but it is not sufficient; there must also be a degree of collaborative learning as well. This is the best way to combat isolation and stagnation in an organization. Both personal and collaborative learning are necessary for organizational change, but even these two are not sufficient without strong leadership. Change agents, including educational technologists, who hope to bring about positive change in schools must also take steps to develop leadership at all levels of their organization. Because teaching is one of the best ways to lead, it becomes even more important for educational institutions to also develop teaching in all their members. Ultimately the ability of an organization to teach and learn will be the determining factor in the success or failure of any change initiative, including any effort to introduce video games and simulations as educational technologies.

To overcome resistance to change, it is important to respect that resistance. Change agents who respect the realities of resistance will be more likely to successfully deal with and overcome challenges. Resistance is after all a healthy and necessary reaction to organizational change. It is also important to remember psychological factors, and that resistance to change is not merely a matter of logic, but of emotion. In addition, it is critical to seek effective strategies for responding to specific obstacles, challenges, and barriers.

Any effort a change agent puts into facilitating organizational change or overcoming resistance to change is lost if the effects, or more importantly the process, cannot be sustained. A state of continuous improvement is necessary for sustained change, particularly in the fast moving field of technology – and the volatile field of education.

An important element of sustaining change in an educational institution is to include families and the community in the change effort. Schools do not exist – and school change does not happen – in isolation. Change agents working to integrate educational technologies such as video games and simulations, must consider not only the changes necessary in the school, but the effect that these changes will have on the community. There may even be changes necessary in the community for the project to be successful, or the project may need to allow changes to accommodate the needs of the community.

In the end, parents and the community do not exist so much to improve schools, as schools exist to improve the community, or society at large. Organizational change theorists tend to subscribe to the view that the purpose of any school change is to effect positive social change.