Today’s article is written by a guest blogger named Robert Blaga.
Robert is a full-time trainer for a European based multinational company and he’s passionate about leadership, communication and learning.
I highly encourage you to check out his blog for internal trainers at http://robertblaga.com/. There you will find useful materials and great insights from someone who is working “in the trenches” – but also has a great eye for how to make things better for his team.
In the article below, Robert shares a simple, effect technique to address a common problem Change Agents face when good ideas are rejected because they represent a threat to “business as usual”.
The Trojan Horse Inside the Walls of Change
Last week I received this question from a friend involved in a major change effort:
“How can I implement my ideas when I have no power? What I think we should do to support change is not how business as usual is conducted.”
His challenge has also been my challenge over the years and I’m sure if you have ever been asked to make change happen in your organization, you have faced similar uphill battles.
Those in positions near the bottom of the organizational chart often have great ideas to improve how things work, but they lack the authority and resources to make these changes happen by themselves. And when they propose things to upper management, very often they are shut down by excuses like “that’s just not the way we do business around here”.
Sound familiar? I’m guessing it does.
What can we do about it?
To answer this question, first we must understand the reason behind rejections based on “business-as-usual”.
Often, upper management gives the impression that they have other, more important things to deal with than new ideas that originate within the employee base. So they don’t really listen – and by doing so, they fail to recognize an idea’s potential. They use this “gentle” approach to reject something they don’t fully see as an opportunity.
When this happens, Change Agents have two options:
1. Forget about it. Let your good idea wither on the vine.
2. Fight for it. Prove to the organization that your idea is solid.
If you chose the first option, you should stop reading right now.
If you chose the second one, I’ll offer a tactic I’ve been using successfully for the past five years. I call it “The Trojan Horse”. The idea may sound familiar, however, unlike the wooden horse that brought down the city of Troy, this approach is used to make things better, not worse.
Here’s the strategy:
1. Scale It Down: If upper management rejects your initial proposal, the first thing to try is to take your idea and scale it down.
For example, a few years ago I begged a training manager to allow me to completely redesign a leadership course I was being asked to deliver. The concepts and the method within the original material was “old school” – as in 250 words/slide and the trainer is a presenter rather than a facilitator. My suggestion to improve the material was initially rejected. The explanation? The material was written in the company’s “official training style” because it was important that everyone deliver consistent training. So I scaled down my idea, and instead of thinking about the whole training, I decided to focus on introducing only one new concept.
2. Just Do It: The second step is to completely ignore the rejection and implement the scaled down idea. In my case, I took that new concept, delivered it to the group and collected feedback on it. In this case, the feedback was great.
3. Report Back: The third step is to report back to the manager what you’ve done and the results. They might be upset with you, but you can play innocent since you only implemented a tiny fraction of your idea. And besides, you have data to prove the effort was worth it.
4. Ask Again: The fourth activity in the Trojan Horse approach is to humbly ask for permission to continue with this small idea of yours. It has been my experience that in 9 cases out of 10, the person in charge will say yes because this time you don’t just have an idea, you have data to prove the opportunity.
What you’ve just done has opened the gates of Troy for the Trojan Horse that is your great idea. You’ve also proven the value of the idea with facts and data. Now that you have permission for a small change you can take further steps to implement the big change.
The Rest of the Story: It’s now a couple of years later and the leadership program that I wanted to redesign is now 90% changed because I chose the Trojan Horse path. It took a while, but as I returned from time to time to report new “tiny” but successful changes in the program, the discussion became easier and the approval rate for my ideas grew.
The keys to successfully implementing The Trojan Horse strategy are to choose your approach carefully, to strive for a steady rate of progress, engage in small steps and to take your time.
Keep it Real: Finally, as you discover and test out new ideas, it’s very important to be true to yourself! For example; if, while testing a new change, you discover that the idea is actually bad for the business, let business as usual continue and choose to attack another castle.
Summary: Change Agents can choose to abandon their great ideas when faced with the familiar management rejection tactic called “business as usual”.
Or they can choose to storm the castle of resistance using the Trojan Horse approach I’ve described here. I’ve used it successfully to implement incremental improvements in my organization and I believe it could work for you.
Questions for Chatter:
- Have you experienced the kind of internal resistance to change that Robert describes?
- How well do you think a “Trojan Horse” approach might work in your organization?