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Make your 'problem' part of the solution

Make your 'problem' part of the solution

Nicola Hopes

18 October 2023

May I share a snippet from a recent client conversation...

Me: So, you've got the scope of the project agreed and you've got the resources approved to deliver it?

Them: Yeah!

Me: And you've engaged the right people in the solution and the board are buying it?

Them: Yes!

Me: Most people would love to be in that situation, and you've still got issues? Tell me more...

And she went on to wearily describe what she called the ‘nay-sayers’ i.e. the people who were telling her all the reasons why it wouldn’t work and doubting the change was even possible.

Those doubts might well have been coming from a good place – these people obviously cared about what happened.

But they were bringing her (and her team) down.

And the problem wasn’t going away.

The problem or the solution?

So, if the problem isn’t going away – let’s face into it. Even if it holds some uncomfortable truths…

#1 First things first – ‘nay-sayers’ are not a homogenous mass.

• Some of the people who have been lumped into this bucket are just people who naturally consider what could go wrong. Call it fearful. Call it risk averse. But they can’t help but go there. It’s how they think. And what’s helpful with change? A bit of catastrophising to identify the possible problems. So, should we use their natural tendency to help avoid the pitfalls?

• Other people who are described this way are those poor sods who just aren’t being heard. People who have ideas but they’re just not being listened to because their ideas don’t fit with our beautiful plans. Should we just flippin’ listen to them and see where the nuggets might be?

# 2 Secondly – ‘nay-sayers’ are not born, they’re made. And that’s on us.

• Every time we break a promise. Every time we underestimate the full impact of change before we make it. Every time we make change too complicated. It leaves scars. And if that’s your lived experience, it’s hard to get over and believe.

So, once we recognise that we don’t have ‘nay-sayers’, we just have people who’ve been let down, who aren’t being listened to, or not had their skills put to use, the solution becomes obvious.

Put those challengers front and centre of the change and give them a role delivering it. Risk planning? User engagement? Leading a workstream they’re passionate about?

They become your biggest advocates and biggest allies because they care enough to challenge. To say the unpopular thing.

And next time the challengers test your patience (and they will) remember these are people with bad experiences of change. And you can put that right, can’t you?

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