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How expectations affect the success of change

Elissa Farrow
April 10, 2013
  • Why is change so difficult for some people?
  • Can you think of a time where change was occurring and you found it hard to accept (e.g. change in your work, change in relationship, etc?)
  • What was happening for you at this time?
  • What was your initial reaction to the change?
  • Do you think a our values and expectations could influence, or be a barrier to, the outcome of a change process?

Think about your own values and expectations that you may place on people in your life, including yourself. The ‘Pygmalion’ effect occurs when our expectations unconsciously influence the outcome. An example of this, by therapists Bob Bertolino and Bill O’Hanlon in their book The Therapist’s Notebook on Positive Psychology, features a class of students.

The teacher of the class found the class to be unmanageable so she retired early. The next teacher that knew about the class transferred as she could not handle them either. The school then brought in a new teacher from outside the school. The new teacher had the perception that these students had incredible IQ scores. Although this turned out to be a misunderstanding, she changed her teaching plan to engage and challenge them. The outcome was that the students performed extremely well and ‘changed’ from being a rambunctious class to a well-behaved, achieving class.

A change manager needs self awareness. They also need to understand how their values and expectations could impact on the success of a change process regardless of how well formed the plan is.

Like the teacher example, if a sponsor moved into a change process thinking that the staff impacted could never cope and were hopeless, their attitude would be one of “so why waste time in trying for a change then?”. This would have an impact on how successful the change was; they certainly would not invest in a change manager to manage the approach well.

Before commencing any new change, take a moment to check your values and assess the values of the sponsor and key change champions. If the values are not positive, work on changing them first.

Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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