Veranderpsychologie - Psychology of Change Ben Tiggelaar

Ben Tiggelaar with some of his thoughts on the psychology of change.

First, he stresses out the importance of both sides of the transformation coin:  “Think differently” and “Act differently”. In a transformation you want people to start thinking differently and to act differently. Every side of the coin has got three elements that matter.

Think differently

  • What people believe is hard to change. It is not because you’ve come up with some change idea and strategy, that people take this up. Study what values and beliefs employees/people have, and start linking those with the direction of the change you have in mind.
  • Efficacy: the belief in your ability to succeed in a particular situation. When people don’t believe that they are capable of doing what you ask in the change project, they will not change their behaviour when you’re not around. Perhaps they will act on the change when you in the neighbourhood, but they will download to the old routines when you’re not around.
  • People imitate others. We are social beings and closely look at what others do. Statistics, numbers and strategies in PowerPoint are interesting but when people on the workfloor don’t “walk the talk”, others will not move towards the direction of the change. Make sure that enough people act on the change you want to see.

Act differently

  • Make the abstract output goals of the change project concrete in “actions in-the-now”. What does the desired result in the future mean for actions now? Not easy, but the possible change in behaviour is increased with factor 10 or 11 when these abstract output goals are translated into concrete actions.
  • Develop and apply  techniques for change in behaviour. One important technique concerns the (social) environment in which people work. Change the social and physical environment in which people work, and they will more likely change their behaviour and way of thinking. They will more likely change their behaviour than when you only try to let them think differently.
  • Evaluate continuously. The third aspect is about giving feedback during the (learning) process of transformation. Don’t wait until “the end” to evaluate the change project, but be aware of the process of the transformation. A transformation is in essence a learning process. Don’t focus too much on the outcome of the learning process immediately (which is understandeable). Paradoxically, the fastest road to change is allowing detours on the learning road, with continuous, instant feedback and room for failure. 


Cherry, K. 2014. Self Efficacy (What It Is and Why It Matters). [online] Available at:  [Accessed: 28 Mar 2014].

Tiggelaar, B. (2010, October 19). Dromen, Durven Doen. Spectrum.

YouTube. 2014. Ben Tiggelaar over veranderpsychologie. [online] Available at:  [Accessed: 28 Mar 2014].

Satir’s model for change and the role of school leaders.

Virgina Satir, a family therapist, developed a model for change (Satir et al, 1991) from her work with individuals and families.  She observed individuals and families that were confronted with a wide range of changes. From her observations she distinguished a number of phases when individuals are confronted with change.

The initial state is one of reasonable status quo. The normal state of our (human) mind is chaos. Contrary to what we would like to assume, our mind is in disorder (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Since this state of psychic entropy is far from pleasant, we keep searching for ways to re-establish a purposeful order in our minds. This results in the “status quo” Satir refers to. But the negentropy (state of order) is threatened when something new enters the system. This foreign element, as Satir calls it, causes a period of chaos.  During this moment of chaos, all kinds of feelings enter the world of the individual: anxiety, despair,  anger, all kinds of fight or flight reactions. But at some point, often when things have reached their worst, an insight or idea emerges and provides a direction of “the way out”.  Interesting remark: in Chinese, the word “crisis” consists of two symbols: one representing danger, and the other represents opportunity.

The period of chaos turns into an opportunity to learn, the foreign element that disturbed the order is accepted for what it is and is no longer perceived as dangerous. Interesting would be to look at that turning point in the perception of the individual.

When exactly did it turn over to the positive side?

That kind of waking up, seeing the change in a different, more optimistic light? Also important: in what conditions did this take place? Can we create the right conditions so that the “danger” becomes “opportunity”? Because, after this mental click, the individual can begin the journey of integration (Satir, 1991. Weinberg, 1997). So, the flipping of the mental coin is an essential turning point in the process of transformation. From then onwards, the foreign element can be integrated through practice, and the new status quo is born. Note that the new status quo is of higher performance level than the late status quo.

Imagine an experienced teacher who has got it all under control. At a certain point, the young, new headmaster comes up with a number of innovations. I’m sure you can think of an example, perhaps something to do with a flat mobile 10 inch device. The enthousiastic head “saw the light” in some workshop at a conference, and immediately takes action (phase 5 of Kotter’s 8 steps, remember this post). What is the effect of this foreign element on the mind of the experienced teacher? It threatens to dis-order his balance, his mental order. An order that was preciously, cautiously and probably very wisely constructed. Hopefully, the experienced teacher can quickly flip the mental coin and start to look at the innovation from the integration perspective. But better would be, imho, that the head was aware of the process at hand, and was able to create the right conditions (trust, curiosity, connectivity and tenacity) for the experienced teacher to limit the feelings of distress in the chaos phase.

First, the head needs to know this. This is a matter of knowledge. When you don’t know that it works this way, it is a very logic reaction to fly off, and force the innovation down people’s throats. Are heads of school departments trained in these matters? I don’t think so. Considering the importance of leadership in schools (please don’t confuse with authority) and the upcoming educationaI reforms in Flanders, I would place my bets at the professional development of headmasters, ás well as the professional development of the teachers. For the sake of our biggest treasures: the kids themselves.



Cameron, E., & Green, M. (2012). Making Sense of Change Management: A Complete Guide to the Models Tools and Techniques of Organizational Change. Kogan Page Publishers.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). The psychology of optimal experience. Harper & Row, New York.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1993). Why we need things. History from things: Essays on material culture, 20-29.

Roels, J. (2012). Cruciale dialogen. Maklu.

Satir, V., Banmen, J., Gerber, J., & Gomori, M. (1991). The Satir model: Family therapy and beyond. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

Weinberg, G. M. (1997). Quality Software Management: Anticipating Change (Vol. 4). Dorset House, New York.

Image Satir’s model:

Image crisis


John Kotter - summary and some thoughts on change in education

In my previous post I wrote about my reading plans at the start of  the IC2 module in my TELIC journey. IC2 stands for Innovation and Change 2. The previous module TEL2 focused on the relation learning <> technology in social contexts. This time we’re diving into the actual change process itself. Change-transformation and its underlying processes have intrigued me for years. What is at the root of human resistance for change? To me, it points towards this: change threatens  our inner, mental order. New information entering our consciousness either creates disorder (entropy) or frees up energy in our minds. I hope to learn more on this in IC2.

So, I’ve been reading Csikszentmihalyi on the anatomy of consciousness, following sessions with @janbommerez, and @johanroels and @charliepalmgren introduced me to the creative interchange process and the vicious circle. ‘Creative Interchange is the dynamic process that brings about transformation in human life.’ (Palmgren, 1998, p.1261). Last year we’ve organised some sessions on creative interchange and the counterforce at work: the Vicious Cycle. Reminds me of writing about The Chicken Conspiracy for IC2! This book describes the origin of stress and organisational mediocrity. I will take it up in another blogpost.  

For  now, I finished reading John Kotter’s Leading Change. Very interesting, I made a summary in this popplet. John Kotter provides an 8 step plan for successful transformation in organisations.

Some thoughts on transformation in education:

1. Establishing a sense of urgency: are  teachers, headmasters (and pupils) truly determined to change? I don’t think so. I think too often there is a common sense of complacency with teachers. “It is not all that bad, a kind of sleepy contentment with the status quo”. True urgency is driven by the determination to win, not anxiety about losing.

2. Creating the guiding coalition: putting together a group with enough power to lead the change. On macro level, politicians perhaps have the power to lead the change, but I honestly have the impression they are driven by the power itself, and not the actual transformation in favour of our biggest treasures: the kids themselves. On school-level, there is actually no “guiding coalition”. At best there is a group of reformers lead by an innovative headmaster, but a lot of the teachers are  left out of the coalition, and they block progress. Schools have got ‘atypical’ organisational structures: one or more headmasters and many, many, many others: teachers, parents and children. This inequality in numbers makes creating a guiding coalition hard.

3. Developing a change vision: very often there is no shared vision. Perhaps there is a vision, indeed, but it is far from shared! Truly shared, I mean. Some staff meetings and brainstorm sessions don’t do the trick. Listen to the real culture-talk in the toilets after one of these staff meetings, and you’ll know what people really think.  A vision should provide real guidance, it should be a safe and easy reference for every innovative action in the school.

4. Communicating the vision, not once, ten times, but hundreds of times the vision needs to be communicated. Again, this is not the case for most schools. Undercommunication and inconsistency are ruling. Reason? We don’t have the time (we think we don’t), and we underestimate the importance of this phase. This a matter of knowledge. Headmasters are not trained in these matters. Also, actions speak louder than words. Do teachers and school leaders “walk the talk”?

Nothing undermines a communication program more quickly than inconsistent actions by leadership.

5. Empowering broad-based action: many people indeed work hard, very hard to improve and transform their organisation. I’m the first to say ‘thank you’ to those people. But since step 1 to 4 are neglected, the hard work is not efficient and transformation is blocked.
This fifth step is about removing as many barriers as possible and unleashing people to do their best work (Creative Interchange process). One example of a fundamental structural barrier: the tenured teacher with a fixed mindset. The system allows that teachers who don’t deliver quality can obtain full tenure. But there are many, many other structural and systemic barriers. A decent diagnosis of structures, systems, staff, style/leadership is needed before you can start removing barriers. Again, the leader is key, but headmasters are not trained to do so.  

6. Generating short-term wins: creating visible, unambiguous success. There are already many classroom innovations and good practices of educational transformation. Great! But the problem is they result from (groups of) passionate individuals. They are not embedded in the bigger whole that results from  steps 1 to 4. When those “passionata’s” stop teaching/working, often the innovation also ceases to exist.

7. Don’t let up: consolidating gains and producing more change. Be aware of the forces that re-inforce complacency and the status-quo. Even if you’re successful in the early stages, regression may still follow. Producing more change when the first steps are not fulfilled is futile.

8. Make it stick: sustained change. New practices must grow deep roots. Roots are often not deep enough. The result is people download to their old routines, and fundamental transformation is blocked. The social forces at work in cultures are strong, very strong. Book closed.

This is not the most optimistic blogpost but it was a good read! It helped me analyse what goes wrong with transformation in educational contexts.  Kotter’s 8 steps provide useful insights on transformation, but “how” are we going to realise this? Let’s start with our-selves: start interacting authentically. ‘Authentic interacting fosters creative interchange, in that we are willing to voice, with integrity, our unique perspective, thinking, interpretations, beliefs, and values while encouraging others to do the same.’ (Palmgren, 1998, p.1271)

Walk the talk…

Summary in popplet:

1. Hagan, S., & Palmgren, C. (1998). The Chicken Conspiracy: Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Recovery Communications.