As a leader of a startup, a public company, a charity — you will find yourself dealing with the planning for, advocacy of, and implementation of change. Change is the constant.
As change is the constant, resistance to change is also a given. People do not like change in the workplace. They like to settle in, do their jobs, and become expert at what they do. They want the comfort of a known gig and a known operating model.
Change, by its very nature, creates discomfort. This discomfort gives rise to resistance. Resistance becomes an internal barrier to the success of the change.
So, what is a leader to do?
Half a loaf, Big Red Car?
The simple answer is to “get half a loaf” meaning immediately get done what can get done with the minimum amount of drama.
A big hairy gorilla of a change will meet resistance, but a little cute chimp of an idea will be fine.
Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil were both masters of this even when dealing with each other.
Speaker O’Neill was famous for telling Reagan, “That’s all we can do on that subject right now, Mr. President.”
Reagan would laugh. They would have a drink. Reagan would build on that progress, come back, and get some more at a later time.
It would not be unfair to call it incrementalism.
I urge President Donald J Trump to do the same — get done with his wall what can get done and come back another day for the rest of it. He has long since given up on a 2000 mile wall.
As a startup CEO, try to adapt this intellectual approach to the problems with which you are wrestling. Break them down into bite sized building blocks, why not?
As a CEO of private and public companies for 33 years and an Army officer in command of combat engineer units for five years before that, I quickly learned that people will resist “change,” but the same people will not resist an “experiment.”
When you are confronted with resistance to change, take this approach, “I understand there are many valid misgivings about this proposed change. I propose we just conduct an experiment. Let’s do it for a few months and see how it works out, what say you?”
What I found out and continue to mine is that people will go for an experiment when they will not embrace a change.
Not sure why, but it seems to work every time.
The other half of the loaf
What I always found was that when the experiment bore fruit, getting the other half of the loaf was a breeze if you were careful to dole out more than 100% of the credit for the success to those who had originally been skeptical.
Again, this is not a deep psychological manipulation. This is a broken fingernail word of wisdom from the trench warfare that is life, business, and startups.