When you are asking an organization to deviate from “standard operating procedure” (SOP), plenty of prickly weeds await. Anticipating these is crucial to success: hoping for the best while planning for the worst.
The stickiness surrounding SOP is a wonder to behold. I used to work for “the phone company,” and we thought we were highly creative. We researched new ideas in giant buildings that looked like what’s shown. This one was designed by Eero Saarinen — wasn’t that a perfect setting? Well, maybe. When asked why he made it so gray, Saarinen quipped, “Have you seen the people who work here?” We were part of a machine, and earth-shattering change would mess with that machine.
One creativity guru we hired brought along a large tub of hats, so we could role-play at will. He observed that our organization was the only place he had been, where participants could go all day with nobody ever trying on a new hat! You get the picture: the sense that we were open to new ideas didn’t fit with our actual actions. If you stuck out your elbow, you would hit something important.
The people who work where you do will feel issues with your new idea which you never anticipated. As much as you are in a mindset that your plan will work, they are in a mindset that what they do now works. Their current process is how they solve problems. You would like to open their eyes. But perhaps it also helps if they open your eyes. Here’s how:
- Invite people to meet with you who are happy as they are, asking them to brainstorm your possible plan for change.
- Open them up by playing “Edsel.” What’s that? It’s a brainstorming game we play in MACH. More about it, below.
- Enlist them in working on the most challenging problems they brought up. Surprisingly, people who can think of roadblocks often will help move them.