Get people on board with (breaking) changes by radiating intent

Elizabeth Ayer’s Don’t ask forgiveness, radiate intent poses radiating intent as a good alternative to requesting approval or asking for forgiveness:

For me, the idea came from L. David Marquet who suggests using “I intend to…” to your superiors. The idea is that if the subordinate reliably signals intent, it removes the supervisor’s inclination to micromanage, while still allowing them to intervene if really necessary.

I have used this approach at work (BCG Digital Ventures), where it was difficult and time-consuming to get approval for the changes we wanted to make to internal tools, and asking for forgiveness was not an option.

The team’s product manager and myself switched to radiating intent: we created a list of upcoming changes, along with a deadline 14 days in the future, on which those changes would be implemented. These 14 days gave stakeholders the opportunity to voice concerns.

Even though we had trouble getting approval for these changes earlier, when we switched to radiating intent, only one upcoming change received any objection at all. By radiating intent rather than requesting approval, we got more done, and the amount of back-and-forth communication dropped significantly.

This works because the responsibility stays with the person/people radiating intent, and is not shifted to the approver (Ayer, 2019):

Radiating intent also has the advantage over asking permission that the “radiator” keeps responsibility if things go sour. It doesn’t transfer the blame the way seeking permission does, which is good. We should be responsible for our choices.


Ayer, Elizabeth. “Don’t Ask Forgiveness, Radiate Intent.” Medium, June 28, 2019.

Note last edited November 2023.