What We Misunderstand about NFWs

This post is part of a series for school leaders working on implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change. The NFWs are the folks who look a little like Yes Buts with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?” but who are really saying to themselves and their fellow NFWs, “No freaking way am I doing this!”

This post focuses on how we misunderstand NFWs.


Sometimes, when we are new to school change work, or when we are new to working with a particular staff, we will misidentify an NFW as being a Yes But. That is because they raise the same kind of objections. But we must remember that NFWs have a different objective. The Yes Buts honestly want to know about the objection and can be appeased when they receive a response they view as legitimate.

On the other hand, with the NFWs, if you address their concern, they will quickly respond, “Well, maybe. But what about this?” and throw up another objection. Their motivation in asking is not the same as Yes Buts. The NFWs’ objective is to avoid doing something they don’t want to do. Generally, they are not really concerned about the question they asked, they just think maybe it will be the “legitimate” thing that will get you to say, “Well, I guess we shouldn’t do it then…”

Don’t worry. You will quickly start to tell the Yes But questioners from the NFW questioners.

The much larger problem than misidentifying NFWs is that we think we can or should change their minds about the work.

I have worked with wonderful, caring Learning Coaches and Technology Integrators who so believed in the work what they ended up putting most of their time and energy into trying to get the NFWs to do a better job with the initiative. The problem of course, is that they forgot that, by definition, these educators were going to do everything in their power NOT to implement the initiative in anything other than some superficial “check list” approach. The travesty, of course, is that all that high quality time and energy from the Coaches and Integrators went into a black hole, instead of working with the Yes Buts, where it would have made a difference.


Next in the series: How to best support NFWs.

1 thought on “What We Misunderstand about NFWs

  1. Pingback: Working With A Diverse Staff: The Complete Series | Multiple Pathways

Comments are closed.