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Submitted by 1213ma on


BLUF:  How do you stop the one person with "But, what if......" That slows, stalls and mainly disrupts management change.


You know the classic good idea or change effort that there is always a person who says "That's great but what if this happens like it did 10 years ago!" 

Does the community have a answer to come back?  Currently I say Ok, but we are looking for a 90% solution here. And seem to get another round of what if's. 

acao162's picture

My main somewhat snarky comment is "And what if it doesn't.  We can't live in the land of what-if"

If I'm feeling a little more inclined to indulge my high-I tendancy, I let the person give me a 5 minute trip into "what if" land & then stop them with a task of ensuring they have ways of getting around the what if.

For instance:

- What if the computers go down (again)?  Me:  What steps are you taking to keep them running?  What is your emergency plan?

- What if Susan quits, last time we brought in change, Bill quit.  Me: What is your plan to cover Susan's desk if she's hit by a bus tomorrow?  If you don't have one, get one.

If that doesn't end it, I remind them that this is the direction the org is going in.  They can either embrace the change or consider if this is still the right place for them.  Not in a mean way, in a "I care about you and your development" way.  I will not have team members undermining the organization, even top performers.

I have one right now who is having a hard time embracing a change.  I told him point-blank "This is management.  You need to learn to deal with the change the org has made and fight for your staff.  No one is going to do that for you.  If you can't do that, you need to decide if you still want to be a manager." 

Solitaire's picture

One of my pet peeves when introducing change is when people object saying things like "But we tried that several years ago and it didn't work then ..." because they think that it won't work now either. I've seen lots of new processes not work because people don't stick with them and enforce the changes, after a certain time they drift back to doing things the way they were before. I don't let that happen and make sure my team know that it's not going to happen this time and it will work when we make the change! 

I can't remember the exact wording Mark uses, but I do find I have to tell my team (and others) the same thing repeatedly to get things to be really taken on board. It's the same with instigating changes, I discuss changes at a process launch type meeting, discuss them at O3 meetings and discuss them at Team meetings and repeatedly discuss them with relevant peers or other colleagues, to keep them reinforced and at the forefront of people's minds.

New processes need to become second nature before the danger is over of people slipping back into old habits.

I also focus very heavily on the benefits of the new processes in terms of time saved or other features, often negativity comes when people can't see the reason why they should go through the pain of the change. 

If I am still getting negativity my last resort is "let's try it the new way for a while and see how it works". All the time during the process making the reinforcements as mentioned above. If it was a good idea to change the process, after trying it 90% of the time my team does agree the new way is better. If they don't agree then I am prepared to take their feedback on what else we can do to improve things or even hold my hands up and say that the old way was better. My team are becoming to realise that this is the case and that I do value their input. I also rarely implement a change without getting feedback from some or all of my team first too, that way I usually have most people bought into the change before it is launched.

Good luck!


uninet22's picture

I highly recommend the MT podcast on "Introducing Managerial Change".  It explains some very simple things that management can do to help employees be more accepting and enthusiastic about organizational changes...

Having been on both sides of this issue, I know that management has usually thought about and worked out the details of a company change over a series of weeks/months.  I've started to realize that the employees adjust more easily if they're given a similar amount of time to consider and give feedback on the idea. 

You didn't decide to make the change overnight.  Don't expect that of them.

As mentioned in the podcast above, you should give an outline of the change in a meeting, then give them an opportunity to provide feedback both in a group setting and one-on-one (over the course of a few weeks).  Don't rush them through it or dismiss their concerns. 

Worst case scenario - they give some input that no one on your management team had ever thought of, and it causes you to go back to the drawing board, helping you save face and avoid the disaster of a failed roll-out.

Best case scenario - they offer all the same input that your management team has already considered, and you can discuss what you're doing to account for it.  This shows them the amount of thought and effort that's gone into the planning, and once they've worked out all of their objections, there's nothing left but for them to support the change. 

Most of all, it gives the employees a chance to vent and feel like they're part of the process.  It shows that you value them and their input. 

There are many ways that a new idea can fail.  This process helps eliminate what I think is the most common cause of a failed organizational change - Management not creating an environment that helps the employees support it. 

smorison's picture

 Disc profiling of them will give you an idea on how you need to communicate with them to get the concept acrossso that they understand it. Remember that communicating is what the listener does, so if you have resistance review your approach.


The dark part of me says "too bad, deal with it or get off the bus" 




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