Case Study—Implementing Change

Did you know?

Countless organizational changes are currently underway all over the world. Despite good intentions, many of these efforts will fail. Various studies have found that 60-to-70 percent of change initiatives don’t achieve the desired results.

To increase your success, start by getting specific answers to these questions:

  1. Why is the change needed?
  2. What’s the goal?
  3. Who needs to change?
  4. What specific changes are required?
  5. Is the target group able and willing to change?
  6. What’s the plan to make it happen?

Let’s apply these questions to this short case study.

Bob Brown, an enthusiastic superintendent of schools, and his assistant Jen Sessions were responsible for a suburban school district outside a large city in the Southwest.

Both Brown and Sessions believed that changing the predominant teaching style in their high school from directing, to one that incorporated more discussion of ideas would increase student engagement and learning.

For a long time, teachers had told students what to do and how to do it. The teacher did the majority of the talking. Brown and Sessions wanted teachers to spend more time asking questions, discussing issues, challenging assumptions, and requiring students to think and express their ideas.  

Bottom line—they wanted students to become more involved and more independent learners.   ____________________________________________________________

1. Why the change is needed? Brown and Sessions need to make a compelling case with facts, statistics, case studies, and testimonials that increased use of the discussing style of teaching will improve student engagement and enhance learning.

Generally, it’s best to present information and evidence that appeals to people at both the intellectual and emotional levels. Engage the head and heart!

2. What’s the goal? In this case, no precise goal was stated. Without specific goals, you have no way of measuring progress. Let’s assume Brown and Sessions wanted the teachers to use a discussing style 70 percent of the time.

How can they measure progress? Self-assessments, classroom observations, and student surveys could be used.

3. Who needs to change? In any change initiative, it’s important to identify the target group—the specific people who need to change. In this case, it’s the high school teachers. (Note, when the teachers change their style, it will lead to the students changing their behavior.)

Beyond the target group, there is a support group. These are the people who are able to help the target group make the required changes.

In this situation, the support group includes the department chairs (the teachers’ supervisors), the principal, assistant principal, and the change agents, Brown and Sessions.

The support group can check in with teachers and discuss what’s working and what’s not working? They can identify specific teachers who excel at using the discussing style and point out best practices related to facilitating discussions. In addition, they can provide encouragement and schedule events to celebrate successes.

4. What specific changes are required? A big problem with many change initiatives is that senior leaders make general statements such as,

  • “We need a values-driven culture.”
  • “Our sales reps need to be world-class.”
  • “We need to change the culture to be more customer-focused.”

But they never follow up with detailed descriptions of the new behaviors that are required.

Brown and Sessions described the specific change as wanting teachers to ask more questions. The questions need to be focused on requiring students to analyze situations, identify problems and opportunities, evaluate options, and make recommendations.

5. Is the target group able and willing to change? Able to Change—I would assume the teachers are able to change. They have the knowledge, skills, and experience to ask questions and facilitate discussions.

Willing to Change—Do the teachers have the motivation and confidence to change? I would guess the majority of teachers are willing to change. But there are always some resistors. You need to listen to their concerns and find out what’s holding them back.

Work through their questions, affirm their talents and previous accomplishments, and help them find the motivation to increase their use of the discussing style.

6. What’s the plan to make it happen? All types of change—individual, team, or organizational— require a detailed plan. The plan should list all of the actions, timeframes, resources, and budget needed to fully implement the change. In addition, the plan should indicate how progress will be measured and when results will be communicated.

In all change initiatives, there needs to be an orientation session so the target group understands the “why, what, and how of the change” that is being implemented.  And the support group understands what they can do to help.


Implementing change is messy and challenging. Do your homework and start by answering the questions described above. It will greatly increase your probability of success.

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