We’ve been successful so why change?

How many times have you heard this phrase in the title or something similar to it? In this month’s Page to Practice book summary about Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead, we asked Kotter “If naysayers typically deploy four different attack tendencies such as death by delay or fear mongering, is it ever necessary to prepare for someone displaying multiple attack strategies or do people generally stick to one?” Here’s what Kotter had to say:

Kotter: Yes, it’s absolutely necessary to prepare for someone deploying multiple attack strategies. Naysayers most often do employ more than one tactic at the same time, as I mentioned before. The best way you can prepare for this is by becoming thoroughly familiar with the four basic strategies and the 24 generic questions and their responses, which will enable you to effectively address even the more complex combinations.

Take, for example, the attack, “We’ve never done it that way before.” I think this attack is a combination of numbers 1 (We’ve been successful, so why change?), 12 (If this is such a great idea, why hasn’t it been done already) and 20 (It won’t work here, because we’re so different). A smart response incorporates tactics that will diffuse all three. First, do not treat the people raising this attack as moronic for not seeing the need for change. Acknowledge their concern, but remind them that life evolves and to continue to succeed, we need to be open to adapting.

Second, remind your audience that someone has to try a new idea out for the first time, and if we are the innovative organization we claim to be, why shouldn’t it be us? Third, remind them that while your organization is unique, it’s not different from others that are seeking to change for the better. And incorporate a simple, specific example that your audience can relate to. More often than not you’ll face an attack like this – one that combines elements from several different attacks – so it’s important to understand how to respond most effectively.

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