Leading Change Up the Ladder

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

I was visiting a forum on the lean.org site and responded to someone who asked how he can get upper management to support lean. (Makes no difference if its lean or any other idea – getting upper management to listen seriously can be a challenge. Here is my response to him.

Here’s how I look at influence (and you’ll see how the ideas of others fit into some of these categories):

People resist us and our ideas for any of three lessons:

They don’t get it. (Level 1)

They don’t like it. (Level 2)

They don’t like us. (Level 3)

The good news is that the same dynamics are at play when they support us. They get it. They like it. And they like us or trust us.

(Here is a link to an article I wrote on this: Resistance to Change: Why It Matters and What to Do About It)

(Some suggested using case studies, so I said. . . ) Case studies can be great. It shows leaders that the idea has worked somewhere else. Preferably somewhere similar to your organization. If it is a good case, it hits Level 1 (understanding), Level 2 (it packs an emotional wallop), and Level 3 (they know that this company is credible and is doing well in the marketplace.)

What often is missing when we try to influence others is Level 3. What is their reaction to you? Do they trust you or not? Do they have confidence in you or not? Unless Level 3 is working in your favor, no amount of Level 1 data is likely to work. And too often, we make our case based on data. We kill them with PowerPoint. If trust is low, then you either need to do things to demonstrate that you are worthy of their trust or get someone else to make the case for Lean. Without that level 3 trust, your chance of succeeding (or even getting in the door) is low.

I hope this helps.

Rick Maurer