ADAPT Framework for person centered changeThese days things seem to be changing faster and faster, making it more  important than ever to remain steadfast in your commitment to introduce person centered efforts in the nonprofit and public sectors. I am often asked how to get staff “on the same page” when embarking on person centered change initiatives in organizations, particularly in a rapidly changing work environment. Leaders talk about team members who are “resistant” to using Person Centered Thinking tools. Leaders seem to be looking for the easy button that will provide the ‘attitude adjustment’ needed to replace resistance.  They really want to understand why some staff members are so resistant to getting on board with using person centered practices.

This question comes up frequently and is most likely experienced by any organization embarking on change. While you can force someone to comply, you can’t force anyone to commit to change. You can only help people discover the value of change within themselves. Our best results a change agents, come through listening to what staff are trying to tell us through their “resistance.” Resistance to change is usually an expression of fear.  I love this quote by author Marilyn Ferguson,

“It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s the place in between that we fear…It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.”

We know that it doesn’t work to tell someone “You have to do this”

When staff continue to be “resistant” or disinterested we CAN 

  1. Approach them neutrally and seek to understand what their concerns are – what would they like to see differently?
  2. We can then say “Given that our organization will continue to move in this direction, what will help you be more OK with this?
  3. Help staff “break from the past” – acknowledge what is over; what they are giving up….and acknowledge what is not over; what remains intact for them
  4. Create a supportive learning environment so that staff can try small steps with support, feedback and acknowledgment for their efforts.

I want to emphasize the importance of acknowledging what is hard about change… acknowledge the good work that staff are doing and let them tell you what it is that they are giving up and leaving behind as a result of this change. Acknowledge that yes, it is hard to give that up AND it is time to look at some different ways of doing our business.

If these elements of change are not openly discussed, then all staff have to hold onto is their fear! And that is where the resistance resides.

The ADAPT Framework for Change looks at components of the change process and what is needed to help people through the transition.

  • A – AWARENESS – do staff have an awareness of the need for change? If all they see is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it… it will be hard for them to get on board. What are you doing to help individuals recognize the need for change?
  • D – DESIRE – does the staff person want to change? What are you doing to help the staff member understand the benefit to them personally… the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). We have some service coordinators who share that the time invested up front in getting the conversation right by using PCT tools….ultimately saves time in the long run and gets better outcomes…that is a significant benefit.
  • A – ABILITY – do staff know how to use the tools? Do they have the training, and access to the skill and knowledge needed to be successful?
  • P – PRACTICE – do staff have an opportunity to practice and get feedback… or practice and get it wrong….and learn from that experience? Are they seeing the tools modeled by others?
  • T – TRANSFER – are staff able to transfer what they learn in training to new and different situations? We often make assumptions that this is an easy thing to do. I have worked with organizational leaders to embed PCT tools in the performance development process and it was assumed that managers would know how to facilitate a working/not working conversation with an employee who has a performance issue. Wow were we surprised and wrong in our assumption. We quickly learned that while managers may know how to teach or advise staff on how to do the Working/Not Working Tool with families… some struggled to facilitate it themselves in the employee/manager context. So we are now looking at new opportunities to allow managers to practice in that new context.


So before getting too upset that your team is “resistant’ and not on the same page, give your team something to hold on to by using this ADAPT handout to ask, and answer the requisite questions that will help change stick.

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