Stage 4.4  Test Feasibilities

When the change agent and the client have several potential' solutions before them, they can begin the task of choosing in earnest. "Choosing" really means testing and comparing, applying criteria, eliminating some possibilities, accepting others, and modifying still others on the basis of comparative judgments. There are three broad categories of measurement which should concern us during this phase: benefit, workability, and diffusibility:

  • Benefit asks the question: "Will the potential solution really do a lot of good if it works?"
  • Workability asks the question: "Will the potential solution really work, regardless of how much good it is supposed to do? Is it practical for us in this setting at this point in time?"
  • Diffusibility asks the question: "Will the solution, the innovation, be accepted by the client system as a whole or a majority of members, given demonstrable benefit and workability?" 

  • "In the absence of good measures of output, educational organizations tend to stress cost reduction, since other potential rewards of the innovation remain only vaguely seen." Miles 3
  • "The most successful innovations are those which increase the autonomy and initiative of the users." Woods 4 
  • "... we are discovering the principle that a change in a simple technology or a new procedure may become completely inter-twined with wider factors in the client system." Chin5

There is a considerable body of research literature on the characteristics of innovations. Such research is relevant to the task of selection. These studies provide us with a number of criteria, yardsticks against which to measure and compare potential solutions. The following listing summarizes the main factors that should be considered in evaluating any possible solution or innovation under the three main criteria.

Potential benefit

  • How many people will it help?
  • How long will it help them?
  • How much will it help them?
    • Will it solve the problem or fill the diagnosed. need adequately?
    • Might it have additional benefits besides filling pre-defined needs?

  • Does it have any negative effects?
    • Might it make the problem worse?
    • Might it have other negative side effects apart from its need-filling value)?

PRIMUM NON NOCERE is the first rule of the Hippocratic Oath. It means "above all, do no harm!" Applies equally to change agents!


  • Will the proposed innovation actually provide the promised benefits? Do you have concrete evidence, such as evaluation data, convincing testimony from other users, or demonstration results in natural settings and conditions similar to those in your own client's setting?
  • Will the innovation perform reliably? Is there any proof of durability and precision?
  • Can the client meet the dollar cost and the human costs:
    • for trial?
    • for initial purchase and installation?
    • for maintenance over time?
  • Are the costs reasonable in proportion to the expected benefits? (Is there a good "cost to benefit ratio"?)
  • Does the client system have the staff to operate the innovation successfully? Do they have the time, skill, training, experience and desire to make it work?
  • Is the innovation adequately developed? Is all the necessary hardware and software available and ready for use? Does the innovation come with adequate information on how and when to install, to use, to alter, to maintain, and to replace? Does installation include training in how to use? Do the suppliers provide adequate servicing and help to users over time?


  • Is the innovation acceptable? Is it congruent or com­patible with the attitudes and values of most members of the client system?
  • Can it be demonstrated easily and convincingly? Is it easy to describe and understand? Are results visible?
    • Can it be given limited trial before the client system is committed to adoption?
    • Can it be tried a little bit at a time?
    • Can it be tried out by only a few members at first without the whole system having to buy in at the same time?
  • Is it adequately packaged? Any change project and any innovation or initiative where new. ideas or actions are being presented has a package. Whether we actually attend to packaging or are even aware of the package, it is still there. It is what the outsider sees first, without necessarily comprehending what is really there. It could be a black box, a total mystery revealing nothing of its true nature, or it can be, in varying degrees, revealing as well as appealing to the various senses of the beholder. In many respects, you, the change agent, may be the pack­­age. In any case, it is important that the package itself be attractive, regardless of the contents. It sends a message; the very first message most clients will receive. Ideally, an innovation should be packaged so as to be both familiar and different; familiar enough to be understood but different enough to be seen as something genuinely new.

    "The most successful innovations are those accompanied by the most elaborate help to teachers as they begin to provide the new instruction." Brickell6

    "Direct experience with a particular device and any associated materials seems essential for an adoption decision."  Miles 7  
  • Is it adequately labelled? Labelling is the language side of packaging. We humans are word users first and foremost and we can fall victim to our own choice of words as easily as we can advance with them. In writing The Guide we are continually struggling to find the right word to describe this or that process. Even the words "change" and "agent" are especially problematic. There is a constant tug of war between trying to be precise and descriptive on the one hand and finding acceptance and familiarity with the reader on the other. Every change agent must fight this battle of words within him or herself as well as with his or her clients. The label is especially important because it is the very first word. It comes before there is any acceptance or familiarity with what you are talking about. Later on, you can use all sorts of words that are unfamiliar, more precise, more informative, but at the beginning, at the labelling stage, the words must be chosen with great care and forethought for the world of the people you are trying to relate to.

These are all questions which should be asked before final decisions are made on the selection of innovations. However, all questions need not be answered affirmatively. Choosing usually is a matter of compromise and trade-off. among a number of advantages and disadvantages. There is as yet no precise way of evaluating these criteria. The advantages will be different for different clients in different situations and, in large part, the determination of advantages and disadvantages is something only the clients themselves can judge; they know what questions are most important and least important for the people in their system.

Even though precision is impossible, it is important to ask these questions in some form. All too often when we survey the wreckage after an innovation has failed, we find that some critical feasibility question was not even asked prior to the decision to adopt.

Many readers may feel that terms like "performance reliability," "installation," "maintenance," and "servicing" apply only to technological change, but increasingly in recent years this same terminology has been used to describe all kinds of innovations. There is a growing recognition that social, behavioral, and technical innovation can be described using similar concepts.