Monday, February 18, 2013

Excuses, Excuses

In every social institution there are three kinds of people: change agents, traditionalists and those in the middle (who can go either way or don't care). 
Inevitably change agents, being who they are, will agitate for improvement of whatever kind. Traditionalists will resist it. And everybody else will watch, wait and see which way the wind blows before acting.
It seems to me that the trick when it comes to effective change-making is for constructive change agents to listen to and work with the constructive traditionalists. Some change agents literally just can't sit still - they live to stir things up. That's not positive energy.
Negative traditionalists - the gripers and the snipers - have the opposite effect. They will do anything to torpedo any change initiative except one that reinforces the way things used to be.
The organization needs constructive people of all kinds - including constructive traditionalists. They are the ones who defend the culture and carry the torch. And because they are so passionate about the mission they will be a change agent's biggest advocates - if, and that's a big IF - they truly believe the change will benefit the organization.
Change agent + constructive traditionalist = meaningful, productive and lasting change.
However - nothing can happen unless you get through the negativity and transform it into positive energy.
And negativity has a way of sounding rational, sometimes. But it's really a pseudo-logic. When you actually write down the "top 10" kinds of excuses negative people make, they seem sort of funny and even pathetic.
Except that in real life the excuses of the "negative Nellies" can and do have really destructive consequences for the very organizations they claim to love.
  1. Difficulty
    • I don’t know how to do that (so I can't evaluate your idea)
    • Sounds nice, but it would be extremely difficult (so we shouldn't try)
    • No matter what we do it won’t matter - we’re just pawns in a larger game - they're out to get us - it's their fault
  1. Dislike
    • I don’t like technology
    • I don’t like your idea
    • I don’t like you
  1. Bias
    • Technology is for the young people
    • Bureaucracy is so old-school (e.g. for older people)
  1. Culture:
    • You haven't been here long enough to understand
    • That would never work around here
    • This is the government not the private sector
  1. False Logic
    • There is a flaw in your thinking (so the whole idea is unworkable)
    • Somebody else has to do it first
    • We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work
    • I would need to see more data on that
    • Everybody knows that's ridiculous
    • I don't see the logic
  1. Blame/Threaten The Messenger
    • You're being a little negative aren't you?
    • You need to be more of a team player (drink the Kool-Aid) (more loyal)
    • Change agents don’t last
    • Why do you care so much?
  1. Invoke “crazy”
    • You’re crazy
    • That’s crazy
    • It’s crazy
  1. I’m Smarter Than You
    • I’ve been around a lot longer so I know...
    • I’m an expert so let me tell you a thing or two
    • Things are more complicated than you realize
  1. False Prophecy
    • That will never happen
    • In a few years it won’t matter because...
  1. It’s A Resource Issue
    • If only we had more money...
    • ...more staff
    • ...more time

* As always, all opinions are my own.