For many years, I lived happily under the illusion that people and their enterprises fought against change through arguments, objections and practical barriers. Yesterday that dream was scattered. In a meeting, I realized that the most effective way to kill change is to claim that you are already changing. In that meeting, a number of new initiatives and changes were proposed. Of course we were prepared to deal with the usual push back and critical questions. But nothing of that happened. Instead, one person simply stated: “but… we are already doing this”. The others promptly agreed, relieved.
That’s when I realized that the most killing words for change are: “but… we are already doing this”.
It’s so smart. At once, blocked are the heated discussions on the why of the change, gone are the visionary long term goals, melted is your objection handling. When saying “but… we are already doing this”, the very essence of the change is acknowledged, supported and even more, it’s already being implemented. What more can you ask? The sentence is often accompanied by a look that says: “why are you still in this meeting? What you are proposing is for us BAU (Business As Usual, the killing sentence poured into an acronym). Go away”.
It puts the blame on you because apparently your idea is so obvious that everyone is doing it spontaneously.
But are they, really? 80% chances that this is not at all happening. At best, there may be some resemblance with another project.
There are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that your change project does not get derailed or delayed:
Drill for details on what exactly they are already doing.
Nod as if you were understanding.
Let them explain meticulously what activities they are deploying, on a day to day basis. Bet, this will be very difficult. Because it is not happening, or it is not structured, or it is not well thought through.
Ask for the results.
Probe for proof. Ask how they track their outcomes. This is the difference between activity based and result based tracking. Of course, we need to have activities first in order to obtain results. Often, change is stuck in the activity phase and is not tracked towards the results or KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).
Book checkpoints in the agenda.
Regardless of what the above two questions yield as answers, say that you are so interested in their progress, that you want regular checkpoints. This will allow you to navigate back to your own change project and take control. Don’t let anyone else but you plan those checkpoints in the agenda.
Change, ideation, innovation,… it must be done to ensure that enterprises remain competitive and successful. The trickiest opposition is when someone replies with a “but… we are already doing this”. If you have more tips, just leave a comment in the section below.