Overview

Donald P Ely is considered one of the leading theorists in the field of instructional technology. In 1976, Ely published a paper titled Creating the Conditions for Change that emphasized the importance of environmental conditions on the change process. Though this study specifically focused on the change process in libraries, in a subsequent study published in 1990 titled Conditions the Facilitate the Implementation of Educational Technology Innovations Ely presented a refined and generalized theory of the conditions of change that included implementing technology innovations in educational settings.

What did he have to say?


Ely's conditions of change theory focuses on factors outside of the innovation that exist in the change environment. This is in direct contrast to Roger's theory of diffusion that examines the internal attributes of an innovation.

Ely was the first to theorize that there is more to the successful implementation and adoption of change than the inherent qualities of the innovation. There are socio-environmental conditions that impact the implementation of the change process. In his first study (1976) Ely focused on "the impact of environmental factors on the extent which members of a social system were psychologically ready to consider change" (Ellsworth, 2000, p 40). Deviating from conventional wisdom Ely believed that regardless of the quality of the innovation, certain socio-environmental conditions of change were necessary for the change effort as whole to succeed.

In his later study (1990) Ely listed eight conditions of change which when present in the context of a particular change process created an optimal change environment for the successful implementation and adoption of technological innovations. Ely himself, however, recognized that not all eight conditions of change may exist in every change environment. (Ely, 1990). As a result, these can perhaps be seen more as suggestions for successful implementation of change rather than a strict proscription of conditions without which the change process is doomed to failure. Though Ely does make plain that "the absence of any condition(s) will probably reduce the effectiveness of the implementation process... the goal is to attain each of the eight conditions during the implementation" (Ely, 1990, pp. 301-302). A brief summary of Ely's condition of change are listed below:


Ely's Eight Conditions of Change


1. Dissatisfaction with the status quo Something must precipitate or necessitate a need for change
2. Sufficient knowledge and skills Intended adopters must have the knowledge and skills to implement change
3. Availability of resources Resources necessary to implement change must be accessible
4. Availability of time Adopters must have time to learn, adapt, integrate and reflect
5. Reward or incentives Adopters need motivation, intrinsic or extrinsic depending on the individual
6. Participation Key players and stakeholders must have a voice in the process
7. Commitment Leaders at all levels must "buy into" the process and express continuing support
8. Leadership Key leaders must provide encouragement, support and inspiration for adopters

How Are Ely's Conditions of Changed Applied to the Change Process?


As Ely suggests, a proper way to frame the use of the eight conditions would be as a "needs assessment" (Ely, 1990). This "needs assessment" is not limited in its application to any particular part of the change process. Use of Ely's conditions as a diagnostic tool are encouraged throughout the entire process. Taking inventory of the change environment for existing conditions prior, during, and on an ongoing basis can provide change agents with valuable information. Such information can be used to design and implement necessary interventions to strengthen or support existing conditions. Or such information could be used to initiate the creation of conditions that are currently absent to ensure a greater likelihood of the adoption of the change process. Ely suggests as much in the quote above when he states the goal is to attain the conditions during the implementation.

Though the eight conditions are ordered numerically, this is not a sequential system but a list of conditions that should be considered.  Furthermore, Ely states "The setting in which these conditions are used is the ultimate determinant of their utility. Care should be taken to allow for cultural and personality variables" (Ely, 1990, p 300). Depending on the "local condition" of the environment, some conditions may play more prominent roles having a greater affect than others on the change process. Another argument against the attempt to impose sequence or rank in order of importance is the fact that some conditions overlap and all are interconnected and related to one another to varying degrees. This in turn also explains why when one condition is absent the overall probability of success is weakened.

Who should use Ely's Conditions of Change?


The primary users will be change agents such as educational planners, school superintendents, principles, technology coordinators and other media specialists. However, anyone in the change process can use them. Indentifying and addressing each of the eight conditions will lead to a better understanding of what is necessary for successful and sustainable change to take place.

Do Ely's Conditions of Change apply to change processes outside of education?


"Ely's Conditions of Change model is arguably the broadest and most far reaching of the classical change models" (Ellsworth, 1995, p. 67). Although used primarily in educational change processes, Ely's eight conditions are suitable for almost any type of change change process including business and industry. The strength of Ely's Conditions of Change lies in the diagnostic framework it provides change agents for "taking inventory of the situation" within any give change process and assessing for the probability of success or failure for adoption of an innovation to occur.