Achieving Change Using All of Your Angles: By Phil Null

Achieving needed change is hard. People get comfortable. We get familiar. Soon we get stagnant, and perhaps a bit defensive of the roles we play, our knowledge of the job, and the “as is” we understand and support. Absent complaints or outcry from the public or customers, only a new set of eyes on a problem, informed not by the history of how things have always been done but on the negative impacts current processes have on outcomes, will be what predicates change. But changing the minds of those with decision making authority, or those who
control the flow of information, can be a herculean task when the solution requires some effort to adapt on their end. Resistance to change is strong with those who happily work short days in ignorance and indifference.

Progression towards meaningful change in such situations comes with some predictable behavioral response. First, the change agents--the individuals or group having identified the problem and having a vision for a new “to be”—use good followership skills and work to inform decision makers and information gate keepers. Influencing and achieving solutions demands work by all stakeholders, but expect pushback and disagreement which can naturally yield defensive postures, arguments, or subtle credibility sabotage efforts such as the insidious use of the “Reply All” function in email. 

Leaders who are made aware of the disagreement and contention may make some effort to resolve it. They may ask both sides to explain their stance or direct both to communicate through established channels in the management scheme or chain of command. Aware such bureaucracy will never yield change, the change agents may prematurely abandon their interest, passion, and energy for the needed change. But, particularly in public service, they learn they cannot sustain inaction as their internal drive to serve won’t allow it. When normal approaches to achieving a solution become disruptive, those desiring and working to influence change use versatility and shift to attacking the problem from unconventional angles which can achieve large wins or even minor improvements which collectively can yield broader desired outcomes. Want to use new angles to attack the process? Consider these options: 

  • Highlight the lack of outcomes in required reports and in regular correspondence;

  • Draft needed revisions to all existing and related policies then route them for review through every available channel;

  • Inform, garner the support of others, or develop coalitions in the organization who may be experiencing a similar issue;

  • Use Your Writing Skills and submit articles to internal and external professional publications or blogs;

  • Start a podcast;

  • In every line of effort seize any opportunity to discredit the knowledge and abilities of those responsible. Shame is a peerless motivator. Understand how to professionally push back professionally push back throughout the assault on the “as is”--it only sweetens the win.

Change is hard. It requires commitment and time. Some days we suit up and crash into the line just to be knocked back. Other days, we crash in and gain a few inches. And yet others, we crash in, break through or figure out how to go around, and score a touchdown. Sturdy sustainment of influence tactics using all available communication channels will gain you ground with the right audience through one of the angles you’ve taken, and change will result. 


  1. I just found your blog. Keep writing. I appreciate your perspective.

    1. Thanks Mike. Got a few pieces I'm working now!


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