GovLoop readers discuss the pains, perils of advocating for change

Andrew Krzmarzick reports on an online discussion about whether butting heads is required to incite change

Every week, GovLoop hosts hundreds of dialogues across the community. Recently, one of our bloggers asked, “Is butting heads necessary to incite change?” Here’s how Nina Ilnyckyj, a community manager for the British Columbia government, began her post:

“This week I felt powerless in effecting change in the organization. So, when I was invited on a field trip to the petting zoo yesterday to help with a video shoot for a cool project, I definitely said 'yes' to the mini escape. Petting cute baby goats with little kids around was tritely therapeutic. Standing in the goat pen in the fresh air was a welcome contrast from sitting in a stale office, where my frustration at the (slow) pace of change was aggravated by being tethered to my desk.”

Her post proceeds to reveal how she was as “silly as a baby goat” and shares eight insights about organizational conflict she got from her excursion to the zoo. Below are three of them:

1. If your moral compass tells you that the battle is right, move forward.
2. Timing is important in deciding the next move in the battle. Sometimes it's just not the right time.
3. When deciding how to fight the battle, determine whether there is a way to move things forward in a less adversarial manner.

The Art of War meets Animal Farm, eh?

It’s “not so much butting heads as shaking up mental models,” responded Bill Brantley, a human resources specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. “A major reason why people resist change is that they spend a good deal of cognitive energy building their mental models of how things work in an agency. Suddenly changing things means that the person has both lost their current mental model and [has] to spend time and energy building a new mental model.”

Then in a sudden and unexpected shift in the battle, Nina admitted that “one of the people I butted heads with this week was my new boss” and that her boss was writing a blog in response — proof that the new theater of war is, in fact, the Web.

Two comments later, Robin Farr, manager of editorial and media services at BC Public Service, marched onto the battlefield and declared: “Boss here ;)” With that commanding entrance, she continued: “Nina, I think you're radical in a good way, just in a different way than I am. Part of figuring out how best to do our work is having an understanding of how our approach to things is going to be welcomed — or not — by the rest of a very large organization, many of whom really don't think this way.”

Harlan Wax, president of Hyod Enterprises, tried to ease the confrontation. “I like inviting people versus inciting people,” he wrote. “I bet the baby goat didn’t butt you when you offered it a treat.”

It might not butt, Nina, but it might bite.

And just remember what Sun Tzu said: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

Or as Eric Melton, a telecommunications specialist at the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command, put it: “Keep on charging.”

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