Understanding Change – A 3 Part Blog Series – Part Three

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Part Three: “Acting on the Relationship between the Future of Learning and Our Resistance to Change”

Take-aways from Part Two: “Recognizing the Existence of Background Conversations 
  1. Recognize Background Conversations exist and are normal: These background conversations are implicit, unspoken beliefs and attitudes that shape how individuals perceive and react to proposed changes.
  2. Three Types of Background Conversations that lead to resistance to change: complacency, resignation, and cynicism. Complacent individuals believe they can rely on past success, resigned individuals feel powerless and hopeless, and cynical individuals distrust external factors.
  3. Shifting Background Conversations to promote positive change: involves creating a safe and open environment for dialogue, actively listening to participants’ concerns, empowering individuals to take ownership of the change process, and replace resistance with collaboration for achieving systemic change.  

The purpose of this third blog in the series: Acting on the Relationship between the Future of Learning and Our Resistance to Change, is to empower you and your organization to create important next steps for your future this coming year:

Step One: Adopt a facilitator’s mindset to understand resistance

Step Two: Define how you’ll bring change to your campus / company/ community

Step Three: Define how to enable employer/provider partnerships to pivot future directions that are unknown

Adopt a Facilitator’s Mindset to Understand Resistance 

Identify which background conversation about change you’ve likely inherited.  Remember background conversations are like the thoughts and ideas that fill your mind based on things you’ve been through – they are unique to you.

A facilitators mindset is based on an objective reality. This differs from the mindset you’ve inherited or acquired. It is your constructed reality. It’s not wrong or bad – it’s just your personal way of understanding the world around you. Therefore, a facilitator will not see yours nor others as negative, but each perspective has value and contributes to successful change implementation.

A facilitator’s mindset understands we all have different ways of understanding things. In a facilitator mindset, one does not label another’s actions as resistance, recognizing using a label will change how they interact in that circumstance.

The facilitator understands the backgrounds that foster resistance, but instead of seeing resistance as a problem, they design a process to create new conversations that support a different reality. Changing the background conversation involves recognizing it exists and will not be stepped over. 

As you gain skills in adopting a facilitator mindset, learn to look at resistance from these three perspectives: like a machine, like a social event, and like a conversation. 

Just like a car needs to push against the road to move, people in an organization show resistance in their daily actions, like being late for meetings or not following instructions.

Like a machine, it occurs between the person suggesting the change and the person who needs to accept it. Both are natural.

People are used to doing things a certain way. Dealing with objections and negative behaviors may seem socially awkward. Yielding a different outcome occurs when the facilitator focuses on the lack of progress in interactions. Like at a social event, instead negative behaviors being seen as a personal problem, facilitators see it as a result of limited interactions or misinterpretations of the interaction.

A facilitator listens to the conversations, people’s interpretations, and the pre-existing relationships between the parties involved. Listening without speaking gives the facilitator a perspective from how different people speak different languages and have different ways of understanding the spoken word. Like a conversation, people speak to make things happen, to get things done and to make changes happen; yet they interpret instructions very differently.

An unbiased facilitator sees alternative possibilities in these constructed but not permanent realities. It’s important for a non-biased facilitator to understand the relationships they have with participants and be aware of their own interpretations as they unfold.

Define How You Will Bring Change to your Campus / Company / Community

How will you and your organization replace the past with new conversations about the future? Your influence may be internal or external to your organization or both. Each organization or groups of organizations have unique considerations to be heard.

Background conversations were constructed by the accumulated response to success and failure over the history of time, in knowing that, what next steps will you take? 

Our facilitators work with clients to design a process that addresses conversations, interpretations, and relationships.  While a design may be similar in purpose, it must be constructed with the resolution of resistance and change being made within your organizational or community context.

Both employers and educational providers are examining labor market data in the shared region they serve.  The degree to which funding has been limited and whether future funding is in the foreseeable future or not will potentially trigger or heighten old background conversations.  You may choose to revitalize a failed initiative that comes with baggage from prior efforts. 

Let’s look at an example of the transformation at Pima Community College. Numerous case studies of change are outlined in: “America’s Hidden Economic Engines: How Community Colleges Can Drive Shared Prosperity”.  In 2013, Chancellor Lee Lambert declared workforce and economic development at the top of the college’s strategic priorities. The challenges were numerous: a) the Higher Learning Commission had placed Pima on probation, b) state funding reductions and declining enrollments created a fiscal crisis demanding radical change and c) employers found it difficult to navigate Pima’s uncoordinated and complex ecosystem of workforce development efforts. 

Radical change required multi-stakeholder buy-in and new process design including:

  • Consolidation: six campuses reduced to five under one President
  • Restructure: appointed a single point of contact for the employer community with a new vice president
  • Innovation: created a culture around workforce development that the board, administration, faculty and staff supported to close five identified gaps
  • Communication: engaged with internal and external stakeholders to create a framework for ongoing communication

Leadership recognized that people respond differently to success and failure over the history of time.  Change occurs when resistance is resolved and benefits are agreed upon. Non-biased facilitators understand the importance of shifting the relationships and interpretations across stakeholders to see new opportunities.

How to Create a Strategic Pivot to Plan Employer/ Provider Partnerships

Lambert expressed a sense of urgency to “get the right people in the right places, align policies, procedures and resources and track progress in real time.”

Change is not a solo-sport. It is impossible to calculate the probability of how fast change will happen in the region you serve. This is accurate for BOTH the employer or the educational provider.  

Amy Webb, a quantitative futurist advises nothing can substitute critical thinking about the future across all parties involved.  In her HBR article, “How to Do Strategic Planning Like a Futurist”, one must think about time differently.  She advocates the use of time cones, not timelines.  So, the actions taken should be describing the direction in which you anticipate the organization and the industry will evolve.

WebStudy Foundation serves as a catalyst for systemic change. We bring together a diverse array of stakeholders, including educational institutions, alternative learning providers, industry leaders, workforce professionals, employers, job seekers, and social sector organizations, to discover innovative solutions through interactive sessions. Our approach harnesses collective intelligence, fostering consensus-building and action.  While future direction may be unknown, the capacity to pivot is essential.

Our methodology combines well-designed procedural steps with cutting-edge technology to accelerate engagement and interaction. We maximize effectiveness with numerous phases to encourage dynamic engagement, accelerate decision-making, and align on the relevant data. Our approach is customizable, scalable, and inclusive, eliminating geographical barriers and ensuring diverse voices are heard.

Resistance is resolved in a network of conversations. The use of digital tools speeds up the process, with a greater number of iterative cycles of engagement, interaction and feedback across all parties. A virtual convening that is technology-enabled mitigates misinterpretation and misunderstanding by capturing the information exactly as it was stated. 

Wherever your organization stands today in your strategic plan, a pivot and a new process is warranted.

More change is ahead!

As you continually recalibrate your organization’s vision for the future, one needs a new digital process to continually accept and adjust for uncertainty. Regional labor market data is a good place to start. Tactically you can predict highly probable events for which there is data or evidence, and then collectively create innovative solutions to align employment and education.

Using a time cone provides flexibility with an aligned direction, since it is impossible to calculate the probability nor the rate of change and the impact in the region you serve.


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