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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

3 Approaches to Change

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


August 10, 2015

Adaptive Schools and Cognitive CoachingSM represent a unique set of values and beliefs that support organizational development and change. As far back as the late 1960’s, Chin and Benne suggested there are three general strategies used in change process. This month we explore the connections to how schools are working with change and how the work of Thinking Collaborative might be useful as one framework to support schools.

Here are the three types of change strategies most often used:


This method assumes people are rational and interested in positive changes and will make changes if information is provided that suggests the change makes sense. This has been the approach to ending smoking.


This is used when an external authority mandates a change is deemed good for others and assumes that they will be compliant. This has been how the process of changing teacher evaluations systems has occurred in many states with legislatures initiating new systems and imposing sanctions when they are not followed.


This process uses a cultural approach where relationships, norms, and values are addressed in a culture. It assumes individuals take part in their own change processes in response to a cultural renorming. This process supports the need to build individual and organizational capacity. An example of this is how PLCs have been institutionalized in many schools as a normal way of working.

Most change efforts utilize some of the tenets of each, with the first two being the most commonly used.

As you consider your knowledge of Cognitive CoachingSM and Adaptive Schools, how do the values and beliefs of each fit with these processes of change?

Which might you hypothesize would be most effective in your organization?

What are some innovations you are implementing and how are these change strategies being utilized?

What are you noticing about the effects?

Source: Chin, R., & Benne, K.D. (1969) General strategies for effecting changes in human systems. In W.G. Bennis, K.D. Benne, & R. Chin (Eds), The planning of change (pp. 32-59). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

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