Some Quick Thoughts On: How to Approach Someone Who Perceives Their Solution As ‘Fine’ Because They Built It Themselves

It’s a situation that almost every change leader has to contend with at some time. A new process/system/way of doing things needs to be rolled out, and you anticipate resistance from the current process owners – simply because they feel they’ve already solved this problem.

Classic best practice would say something along the lines of ‘build awareness that things are changing, invite them on the journey, help them see the benefit to build desire, train them in the new process and then provide ongoing support’ – but there’s a problem here: These are people who are unlikely to ‘desire’ this change because there’s existing emotional investment, and a feeling of sunk costs in the form of time, decisions, blood, sweat & tears.

So how do we tackle it?

Admittedly, it’s a hard one.

Sometimes there’s no way around accepting that voluntary adoption isn’t going to happen – and that you’ll have to lean on involuntary adoption. But before you reach for the proverbial stick, try this first:

In your initial engagements – stay away from the process! Don’t touch the sacred cow. Don’t ask process questions! That means avoiding questions like “how do you do this?”“how’s the process going for you?”, “why is this happening”**.

Instead your initial goal is to help them identify and agree that there is a BUSINESS problem or opportunity.

That looks more like “We need your advice because we need to accelerate x, reduce y and increase z.” Only then, once they co-own the business problem, you can then enlist them to help you with the solution and dig into the root causes with them.

Abandon the ego and adopt the attitude that you NEED their help because they are experienced in this.

Create allies, not threats.

Noting that this strategy only works if you intend on keeping this team.
…Most people don’t want to design the solution that deletes them.

**as an aside – avoid asking a ‘why is’ question about a process someone owns – it usually comes across as accusatory and you’ll get a defensive response in return. “What things aren’t where you’d like them to be” is a better way to phrase it.