Experience tells us that one of the reasons things don’t change is the people in charge spend most of the time keeping things peaceful and quiet. If we are to challenge the status quo, someone is going to have to give up something about which they care deeply.
The people in charge announce the choice to “move forward,” lay out the compelling reasons and the schedule. People well-served by the change rejoice, people not well-served, sound the alarms. This is a critical moment for those in charge. If they are confident of their ideas and power, they are likely to suppress or at least ignore the opposition. If they are not confident, the urge to restore order often compromises the effort – before it has a chance to have even half a life. (And we do the same stuff over and over expecting a new outcome – insane, huh?)
It is easy to understand the opposition. People resist change any time the loss they are asked to take outweighs the purpose it intends to serve. What is harder to understand is how quickly the champions of change back off their agenda. It appears the resistance/noise in the system triggers concerns about conflict, unpopularity and other unpleasant possibilities. Many a change effort dies because the opponents are more committed to avoiding loss than the champions are committed to the change.
Another way to frame the challenge of championing change is this: If you are not getting any push-back, you aren’t working on anything important. Think about it – if you try to disturb the status quo, and no one objects – what else could it mean other than the people involved don’t see themselves giving up anything that matters?
This frame casts resistance as useful, positive data – confirmation that you are “onto something.” This is not to trivialize concerns of people impacted by change or question their motives. The goal here is to allow new ideas and ways of conducting business “half a life” and steel the champions of change (in the name of progress) the stomach to hold steady through the first protests.
Try it out. Let us know what happens in your experience. Lead on!