Change Tactics & Mechanism for Change

Mechanism for Change

The Mechanism for Change is a simple sentence or two that provides, in very high level terms, how the type of strategy you have chosen will be used to reach your goals. It is often appropriate to identify the mechanism for change before identifying specific tactics, however it may also be necessary to start identifying tactics before you gain clarity on the mechanism for change.

A Mechanism for Change is essentially an elevator pitch for your change project. This is helpful because it starts to focus the project activities. For example:

  • This project will improve the retention rate at this institution by implementing a program to identify students at risk of leaving and providing intrusive mentoring and support (a prescribed strategy).
  • This project will improve the retention rate at this institution by developing a task force of stakeholders from across the institution to come together and identify the top three barriers to retention and identify solutions that can be feasibly implemented within the existing institutional structures (an emergent strategy).

Change Tactics

Change Tactics are the specific activities that change agents use to promote instructional change (e.g., dissemination of textbooks or other materials, or the specific nature, duration, and content of workshops, etc.). In developing tactics, it can be useful to think about each condition in the Desired State and then identify:

  • The gap between the desired and current states
  • Resources available
  • Tactics that can reduce the gap and are consistent with the resources

Note that it is typically the case that tactics will exist at multiple levels. There are primary tactics that should almost certainly be written on the dashboard. But for each primary tactic there are also likely sub-tactics and even sub-sub tactics. It is not always feasible to put all of the more detailed sub- and sub-sub-tactics on the dashboard. Remember that the purpose of the dashboard is to visually articulate and align the high level structure of your change initiative. You should put just enough detail on the dashboard that it is clear what is involved in each tactic. The details will need to be kept track of elsewhere. It is often the case that, once tactics are agreed on, each tactic can be assigned to an individual who will lead and monitor the implementation.

Change tactics should align with the overall change strategy that you chose for your project. What does it mean to have a well-aligned change plan? Even though your overall strategy fits into one quadrant on the foursquare, it is still important to have tactics that fit into multiple quadrants. Balance across the foursquare is important (see Figure 4), as all change initiatives (especially large ones) have emergent and prescribed aspects as well as individual and environmental aspects. The key is that your tactics are aligned with the overall strategy.

The foursquare can help you identify change tactics that may not have been previously considered. For example, you should ask yourself whether you have the best set of tactics if you have a preponderance of change tactics in a single quadrant, or if you have a quadrant with no tactics. Such a situation might be optimized, but it is more likely that something is missing.

Tip: Change Tactics

A set of change tactics should align with your change strategy and fit into multiple quadrants on the foursquare (Figure 4). They should also help you close the gap between your current and desired states.


Goal: Enhance and improve coursework in biotech and skills acquisition in biotech for students (more useful to local workforce)
Useful Tactics:
  • Environmental-Prescribed: Create a staff position to support project
  • Environmental-Emergent: Evaluate other successful biotech programs regionally and locally for successful practices
  • Environmental-Emergent: Schedule regular meetings with local employers, advocacy groups and transfer institutions
  • Individual-Emergent: Set up a design team to work on shared vision

Less Useful Tactics:
  • Environmental-Prescribed: Support from deans. (This describes a changed condition – how will this support be secured?)
  • Environmental-Prescribed: Secure financial support for sabbatical and release time for faculty and team. (No indication about how to secure this support.)

Goal: Create a culture that rewards and provides support for teaching as a scholarly practice

Useful tactics:

  • Individual-Prescribed: train instructors in observation process and formative assessment
  • Individual-Emergent: form peer observation networks in STEM & reflect on teaching using formative assessment
  • Environmental-Prescribed: change self-evaluation questions and review process to codify teaching excellence
  • Environmental-Emergent: support departments to create department change action plans

Less useful tactics:
  • Environmental-Emergent: Create vision networks, empower our leadership with our vision. (This tactic is not only vague, but it is more like a goal than an activity. It does not provide guidance about what the project team should do to reach the goal.)
  • Individual-Prescribed: Support for courses and research. (This is also vague, and it describes a condition rather than an action.)
  • Environmental-Prescribed: Funding for pedagogy (This also describes a goal rather than how or from where such funding will be secured.)

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