March 1999 // Faculty and Staff Development
Making Change Happen: Planning for Success
by Gerald S. Edmonds
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Gerald S. Edmonds "Making Change Happen: Planning for Success" The Technology Source, March 1999. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Why do technology initiatives fail despite the promise that they will improve educational processes, increase student performance, and provide more efficient means of dealing with information? One answer is that faculty and staff development programs often target only individuals' skills and knowledge, and neglect contextual factors such as organizational policies. Faculty and staff development is a change process that must be carefully planned, managed, and evaluated; it should not only improve instructional and organizational processes, but also create an environment amenable to innovation and change.

Vision: The Why of Faculty and Staff Development

Without a vision that is concise and clear, faculty and staff have no point of reference for why development initiatives are important or even necessary. Kotter (1996) states that "vision refers to a picture of the future with some implicit or explicit commentary on why people should strive to create that future" (p. 68). An effective vision clarifies the "general direction for change. . .motivates people to take action in the right direction. . .[and] helps coordinate the actions of different people" (p. 68). Moreover, as Kotter explains, an effective vision is imaginable, desirable, feasible, focused, flexible, and communicable.

Faculty and staff need to understand what technology can do for them individually. Faculty may be most interested in the enhancement of instructional and learning processes and the application of technology to research, and any vision presented to them should address these concerns. Staff have different and unique functions within the organization; their guiding vision may be the improvement of organizational processes and services such as student registration. For staff, a vision should address how technology enhances productivity and efficiency in specific job roles (e.g., accuracy of student records).

Rogers' "Ideal Adopter Categories": The Individual's Role in Change

When a technological innovation is introduced into an organizational system, some individuals within the organization are more open to adaptation than others. Rogers (1983) divides various individual responses to technology into ideal adopter categories. Figure 1 illustrates the distribution and relationship among adopter categories. Though Rogers developed these categories some 17 years ago, they are still useful when one intends to plan professional development intervention, anticipate possible reactions to the intervention or change, and successfully implement it.

The first category is the Innovators. Innovators are eager to try new ideas and technology. They are prepared for the occasional setback as they try new approaches and are not discouraged if the intervention proves unsuccessful. The Innovators' role in the change process is to launch new ideas, technology, or programs in the organizational system by bringing the innovation from outside to inside the institution.

The second category is the Early Adopters. Rogers notes that this group is a "more integrated part of the organization" than the Innovators (p. 248). The Early Adopters have a high degree of opinion leadership; this means that others in the organization respect the Early Adopters' ideas and look to them for cues, advice, and information about adopting new technologies. Consequently, these are the people that should be targeted in initial change efforts. Early Adopters set an example for, and increase others' confidence about, adapting to an innovation.

The third category is the Early Majority, who are cautious toward change and new ideas or technology. The Early Majority seldom have leadership positions within the organization, and so rarely lead change efforts, but they are willing to adopt new ideas and technology. The Early Majority look to the Early Adopters for clues indicating the success or failure of the innovation.

The fourth category is the Late Majority. The Late Majority view change with skepticism and caution, but feel pressure to embrace change from others in the organization who have already adopted an innovation. The Late Majority's uncertainty about innovation must be eliminated for the change initiative to be successful.

The fifth category is the Laggards. The Laggards are traditional in their outlook and are the last individuals in the institution to adopt a change. They have no opinion leadership. Rogers notes that the Laggards' "point of reference is the past [and] decisions are often made in terms of what has been done previously" (p. 250). When Laggards finally adopt an innovation, the Innovators have likely already introduced another idea or technology into the organization, thus beginning a new cycle of change. The Laggards' adoption of innovations, technologies, and programs lags behind their awareness and knowledge of innovation.

Rogers' adopter categories provide a theoretical framework through which one can identify personality types in response to change and therefore provide a starting point for faculty and staff programs. For example, if an innovation requires some form of training for faculty and an organizational policy change, then identifying and targeting Innovators and Early Adopters may accelerate change efforts. There are, however, barriers that can block change efforts.

Kotter's Barriers to Empowerment: Roadblocks to Success

Even when faculty and staff understand the vision and promise of using technology and want to make the widespread use of technology a reality, they often cannot make the transition from the "old" to the "new" because of barriers. Kotter (1996) identifies four general barriers:

  1. A lack of skills or knowledge undermines change and transition (e.g., individuals don't know how to perform)
  2. Formal organizational structures in the institution make it difficult for change to occur (e.g., no forum for exchange between departments or offices)
  3. Personnel and information systems make it difficult to act (e.g., individuals don't want to change or don't know what other people are doing)
  4. Actions and initiatives related to the implementation of change are discouraged or blocked (e.g., no release time allowed for training sessions).

Generally, the focus of faculty and staff development is to provide individuals with new skills and knowledge. However, although three of the barriers (numbers 2 through 4) fall outside of what is normally considered professional development, they could still cause an innovation or new technology to fail. For example, Grant (1996) argues that faculty and staff require:

  • An understanding of what technology can do (a vision issue);
  • Adequate time and resources to learn how to use specific hardware and software and appreciate its application to the classroom and the office (a scheduling, budgetary, and organizational issue);
  • The knowledge and information necessary to organize, manage, and administer information to students in a technology-rich environment (an instructional issue); and
  • Training as to how to teach with technology and "orchestrate learning activities" (p. 2) and training on to manage and administer a variety of organizational processes (instructional and organizational issues).

Faculty and staff can be trained and given information, handouts, and technology, but without change in organizational structures, any preparation for using technology is bound to fail. For example, if faculty technology initiatives are not recognized in relation to promotion and tenure, there is little reason for faculty to invest the necessary learning and time required to ensure the success of any technological implementation.

Formative Evaluation: Checking the Map, Correcting Your Course, and Replotting

Throughout the change process, it is necessary to evaluate progress and to verify that the faculty and staff development initiative is on target toward the desired outcome. There are a number of formative evaluation tools, including surveys and observations, that may be employed to gather data. Formative evaluation allows for "mid-course" corrections and aids in the gauging of the efficiency of the intervention and reactions to it.


When professional development efforts are undertaken with no vision or regard for individuals' attitudes toward change, no consideration of the barriers that may block intervention efforts, and no data to help inform the process, they are less likely to be successful. Faculty and staff development is a change process with many layers (Figure 2). The nature of change mandates that developers deal with vision, adopter categories, barriers, and formative evaluation—or deal with the consequences.


Grant, C.M. (1996). Professional development in a technological age: new definitions, old challenges, new resources. Technology Infusion and School Change: Perspectives and Practices. Model Schools Partnership Research Monograph. Retrieved February 4, 1999 from the World Wide Web: reform/tech-infusion/prof_dev/prof_dev_frame.html

Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading Change. MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Rogers, E.M. (1983). Diffusions of Innovations (3rd ed.). NY: The Free Press.

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