If you think you are going to TEACH someone to change, THINK AGAIN: Teaching (or training) is only one part of enabling change.

I was going to title this post: ‘Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks’, but understanding culture change is important for teaching the both the new and experienced AND both the young and mature students. (So, I’d really have to title my post ‘Teaching A Dog New Tricks’.)


Just like a stubborn puppy, regardless of age you may run into resistance: serious resistance.

Time pressures usually get blamed for sabotaging new skills or behaviours back on-the-job; however, many times the real reason is lack of desire: some people just don’t embrace change. These people may use every excuse not to change: they don’t understand it, it was NIH (not invented here), they say that it is doomed to failure…  Yes, and the list goes on. Why does this happen?  Well, they are comfortable with the way their job is today and may feel the change is a threat: to their job, their seniority… But what is important to understand is that some of these folks MAY go out of their way to undermine the awareness campaign, instruction program or the implementation. Why? Because they don’t have any desire to change.

Think about it… You may be AWARE that dieting to drop a few pounds is a good thing; however, you may not have the DESIRE to change until you are told by your seamstress that you must lose a few pounds to fit into your grandmother’s wedding dress for your wedding  OR you told by a doctor that you need to lose a few pounds so they can operate on you to save your life. If you are going to change, you need the DESIRE to change.

Even a general understanding of culture change will better equip you to design your sessions and (ask and) ensure the right support is in place. Before, during and after the learning occurs, you want to ensure that the team has collectively done everything possible give the change being implemented a chance.


So what is change management: specifically, culture change management?

Culture change management deals with the people side of change. There are a few models, methods and frameworks that address culture change management. Prosci‘s ADKAR® Model seems to be one of the most popular.

Here’s the ‘skinny’ on Prosci‘s ADKAR® Model. The effective management of the people dimension of change requires managing to five key goals:

  • Awareness of the need to change.
  • Desire to participate and support the change (which is key to learning…).
  • Knowledge of how to change (and what the change looks like).
  • Ability to implement the change (skills & behaviours) on a daily basis. (This turns knowledge into action.)
  • Reinforcement to sustain (and promote) the change. After achieving the change: Recognition, rewards, celebrations. (Yes, I know that sounds like good people management practices and yes it is.)

If you keep those goals in mind, you will have more insightful conversations on ‘change’ in general.


I am simplifying the whole topic of  ‘managing culture change’ and hopefully you’ll be curious enough to go out and seek more information.  The training strategy will be part of the overall change management plan (which includes other areas such as: communications, coaching, sponsorship and resistance management). When you are developing and delivering training there are a few KEY things you should keep in mind with respect to culture change: (This list is not exhaustive!)

1. Collaborate with the other members of the ‘Change Team’. You are not alone, communicate and work with the other members of the team. Remember the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. (Here are some Team Teaching Tips that may be applicable beyond the Teaching Team.)

2. Design your session to help manage resistance from the workers:

  • Build-in the answers to typical objections (especially if there is opposition to new processes or technologies that may appear to increase their workload, responsibility or accountability).
  • Explain what-is-in-it-for-them and ensure them they aren’t being engineered out of a job.

3. Provide a forum to collect and address all other criticisms or new objections. Report any new type of resistance back to the change team for ideas on how to handle and prevent in the future.

4. Leverage the sponsor of the change:

  • Have him/her open the session to set the stage to answer as many of the ‘why’ questions upfront.
  • Have him/her send invitations to your session.  Having a VP (or boss) issue an invitation is more powerful than HR or Training sending out the invitation. (Remember, you can’t train people if they don’t show up.)

5. Provide a forum for the attendees to experiment and become comfortable with the new process, behaviour or technology.

  • Consider providing some Performance Support material to assist back on-the-job.
  • Supplement  with individualized coaching.

6. Design-in reinforcement showcasing and highlighting success. For example, if Harry was a successful early adopter, invite Harry to help reinforce the change wasn’t difficult and provide some practitioner’s hints and tips. (This will reinforce that changing isn’t black magic or mumbo jumbo.)

You may not have to deal with all these complications if you are in a small business environment. However, consider leveraging the pioneers, associations and communities to help you with taking people through the different stages of the change process.


“The only constant is change.” Heraclitus of Ephesus a Greek philosopher (c.535 BC – 475 BC)

As a Trainer you are perfectly positioned to help (and accelerate) the change process:

  • Help manage resistance, address objections and try to make your attendees feel comfortable with why the change is happening as well as back at the job expectations.
  • Leverage the sponsor and the rest of the change team to help in designing and delivering you session.
  • Provide a forum to reinforce the success (and lessons learned) of the early adopters.

So, embrace change. Think about how you develop and deliver instructional material. Now, knowing the goals or phases of culture change, how are you going to change how you develop and deliver material?

In the spirit of change, lets change things up. Please leave me a comment and tell me what you would like me to write about. What would help you change and become a more effective trainer?

Until next time…


Flickr Creative Commons Image by Ernst Vikne