One of the inspirations for how we are thinking about driving adoption and change at Variance comes from the framework above.

This framework was inspired by something similar from the world of business, but was built up primarily in education, where change is desperately needed and hard fought. “It has been said that trying to create a significant shift in paradigm in the public schools is like trying to move a graveyard,” explained Timothy Knoster in a 1993 report for a public school system in Pennsylvania. “You are always amazed at how many friends the dead still have. Managing significant change is, at best, a demanding job. At worst it can serve as a proving ground for martyrs.” It’s certainly my experience that the same is true inside large organizations. Change is hard, and compounding that challenge, many who attempt to implement that change with the help of technology come to over rely on the software’s ability to transform people and culture. If companies buy new technology to change the way they work (which they do), most believe it’s 70% a technical problem and 30% a cultural one. But it’s almost always exactly the opposite.

Before we dive in, let’s quickly summarize what we mean by each of the components, because some of them are a bit different in the world of digital transformation and software than they were for Knoster in the world of education.

  • Vision: The “why” of change. A broader explanation for what’s happening, why it matters, and what the long-term results will be when the change is accomplished.
  • Skills: The “how” of change. These are the specific tactics, approaches, and knowledge necessary to deliver on transformation. They can be as small as how to use a feature in an application to as large as how to build out a strategy and share it.
  • Incentives: Another take on the “why” of change. If vision is global than incentives are local. It’s the answer to the all important “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) question.
  • Resources: This is the toughest of the components for people to get their head around. It represents the network of support available to help drive the change forward. Those could be the people responsible, the tools available, and even the time at your disposal to carry out your responsibilities. 
  • Action Plan: The timing and tasks needed to deliver on the vision. Without lining this up and making it available to everyone involved it’s easy to lose momentum and send yourselves back to the start (hence “false starts” as the negative outcome).

What I like so much about Knoster’s change framework is it shows two important things. First, change is not one thing, it’s lots of things. It’s a combination of vision, skills, incentives, resources, and a plan of action. What’s more, the key challenge is how do you make all those things work together, for as the framework lays out, if you’ve nailed vision, skills, resources, and action plan but missed incentives you’ll still feel fundamental resistance and inevitable failure.

In Part Two I'll talk a bit about how I think this change model could be adapted. Stay tuned.

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