Alternate change management approaches for G2C (government to citizen) communications

Abraham Maslow said, "If the only tool we have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

Today, many government agencies' missions rely heavily on changing citizens' behavior. Behavior change is both an art and science. Driving change via policy and regulation is not the only path for change. One size does not fit all. For example, mobilizing the masses to report suspicious behavior requires a different approach than motivating people to wear their seatbelts.

How can government agencies expand their toolboxes to effect change? When the hammer is not appropriate or adequate, pick up a paint brush. Be an A.R.T.I.S.T.

Share your Ambition

Traditional change approaches suggest you must first create a "burning platform" in order to create a sense of urgency for change. There is no question that fear and immediate consequences can promote change; however, an aspirational approach to change that focuses on strengths and paints a bright future can also be effective.

  • Explore a SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results) analysis vs. a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) the next time you strategize.
  • Consider the work of Dr. Peter Fuda, author of Leadership Transformed, who addresses "burning ambition."

Do Research

Understand everything about your audience. How do they think and feel, and what do they believe? What's important to them? How and where do they communicate? Understand their demographics and their psychographics. Learn enough so you can identify the audience's frame of reference and perspective on the subject. This will provide the insight you need to create relevant context for messages that motivate change.

Be Transparent

Trust is essential for change, and transparency creates trust.

The government has formally taken on transparency, starting with the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 and through the recent introduction of and the White House's Open Government Initiative by the Obama administration. However, The Center for Effective Government released its annual government-transparency report card recently, handing out failing grades to seven of the 15 agencies it reviewed.

If government organizations can put legacy hierarchies, systems, and political guardrails aside, transparency will lead the way to building a foundation of trust.


Would citizens' trust of government increase if they thought "big brother" was listening, not just watching?

Two-way communication is a cornerstone of social media, and listening is the action that can provide direction for your messaging.

  • Ask Smart Questions
    Appreciative inquiry is a change approach that helps stakeholders to explore and exploit their organization's full potential through reflective questioning techniques. Leaders and organizations that ask the right questions will uncover the gems of progress.
  • Ideate with Your Audience
    Develop an approach to engage your audience and collect their ideas. Data analytics allows us to monitor and respond to the wisdom of crowds. Instead of management by walking around, consider management by social monitoring. The government can continue to use crowdsourcing to its advantage.


Develop an audience-based, research-driven behavior change strategy. Align your goals with their goals. Set objectives based on your understanding of their perspective. Use their established communication channels. Join their conversation. Tailor your message to resonate with their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Delivering the right message, to the right audience, at the right time will optimize outcomes and develop trust.


For transition management, abandon the hammer and adopt the stoplight. Sometimes the hammer approach only breeds compliance, not deeply rooted change.

Sustainable change arises through transition. Help people achieve incremental change using the stoplight approach which breaks down change into three specific, measurable actions: which behaviors do you want people to start, stop, and continue doing? Measure, recognize, and report small successes along the way.

Change it up, mix it up. Strategic brush strokes can help agencies bring about mission critical behavior change.