On Change

In their 2010 book Change, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, scholars and business leader who study change, attributed resistance to change to three factors. These are observed regardless of the type of change. First, until new practices become habit, people must exert self-control to adopt them; this self-control is necessary to continue using the new practices and avoid reverting to the previous practices. Self-control requires effort, so it is in limited supply. When self-control is exhausted, people return to previous practices.

Second, the greatest motivation for change arises when individuals find an emotional connection to the purpose. The Heaths suggest change arises inside an organization when members become aware of a situation and there is a collective realization that existing practices are contrary to the organization’s goals and fixing the problems will result in important changes in the operation or outcomes of the organization.

Third, change can be difficult when the purpose is unclear. They suggest, “what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity” (Heath & Heath, 2010, p. 17). For Heath and Heath, the path to change is grounded in clarifying the purpose, providing motivation, and creating pathways where by motivation is sustained and action becomes habit and the purpose is achieved.

For IT managers in schools who seek to implement change, Heath and Heath’s propose a model of purpose, clarity, and pathway can be complicated by the nature of education and the nature of motivation. For most of the 20th century, leaders assumed individuals within organizations were motivated by pay and other rewards (increasing these were though to increase compliance with new practices) and they were motivated to avoid punishments. While educators are likely to comply with the changes in practice they are directed to make, they are unlikely to internalize the needs and they will revert to previous practices when possible.


Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Change: How to change things when change is hard. Random House, Inc.