Selling the problem or selling the solution?

I’ve been recapping on some of my thoughts about making change work and helping teams to thrive.  Many of these have either been gifts from really experienced, insightful people,  great books or my own experience in planning and delivering change.  My first reflection is that we need to start engagement at the beginning rather than at the middle!  As executives and senior managers we often spend hours and hours and months thinking about whatever problem or issue there is that is going to lead to change.  There will be workshops, planning meetings, papers and reports.  We will spend hours in meetings and more time ruminating ourselves on the best way forward, well before the wider organisation is told.

Eventually it comes to the day when the affected people are to be told.  The meeting generally briefly sets out the problem and then focuses on being upbeat about the change,  the details and the timetable.  Staff are still reeling from the initial announcement, when the timetable for consultation is set out and people are told about the detail of the change.  We’ve skipped over the problem to the bright future.

Often, managers focus on the future and the change for really good reasons –  they don’t want to upset people by dwelling on the problem.  They worry that it will look bad.  Unfortunately, this means the team have had no chance to really understand the problem facing the organisation,  no time to contribute their knowledge and perspective to understand the problem.

I don’t know how you respond to being led that way?  I know I like to hear the whole story, with my experience I can contribute to understanding the issue.  Without understanding the problem, why would you or the team commit to the change?  

So now, in any transformation project I build in some time to talk through the issue before we get into talking about the next steps.  The team always add to the understanding of the problem we are facing, by improving engagement it speeds up delivery and boosts the chances of getting a good way forward that it deliverable.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  Winston Churchill

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