Resistance to Change at the Highest Levels

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

It’s only been a couple of weeks, and already the Iraq Study Commission Report is ancient history. How can that happen? A distinguished bi-partisan group spent eight months visiting Iraq, studying, and writing a report. And the results reflected the views of every member! Before the ink was dry, the pundits (or Sabbath gasbags, as Calvin Trillin call them) had registered their opinions against the finding. The White House said thank you, the report offers some “interesting” ideas, and that’s that. There is a lesson here for people who join advisory task forces inside organizations – beware. Your comments will probably be dismissed, no matter how thorough and complete your work is. This is the fate of most task forces. To try to avoid this common fate, consider the following: Make sure that the most senior person really wants to hear what you have to say. Push on this. Do they truly want to hear your findings if they are 180 degrees opposed to the current course?

  • Get some commitment before you begin work that at least one meeting (not a breakfast event) will be held to go over the results in detail.


  • Make sure that all significant points-of-view are represented on your group. It is not enough to reflect these various points-of-view. Others need to believe that people like them had a voice. 

Sadly, none of these things were in place for the Iraq Study Commission.