Manage Change by Stopping

I’m reading an interesting book called Domino by Nick Tasler. His thesis this far is interesting: in order for change management to work, you have to tell people what to stop doing. In other words, you have to not only tell them what they should start doing, but also what they should stop doing in order to make time to do the new thing. For example, if a company wants its salespeople focus more on an emerging market, it should actively lower sales targets for established markets.

This accomplishes two things. One, is that people are more likely to adopt change of they can make time for it by doing less of something else. Second, by explicitly giving up something of value, the leader signals that the change is real and is happening and can’t just be ignored in the hope it will go away.

This approach is elegant, I think.

I’ve been thinking about change management efforts through this lens, wondering whether would apply to all change management situations. I could certainly see a leader arguing that a given change is not meant to displace any current tasks, but merely to change how they are done. For instance, if the change was to be friendlier when dealing with customers, it’s implied or obvious that you’d stop being unfriendly.

Tasler’s got a good response for this, though. He describes one HR leader that told everyone in his or her organization that they could no longer say “no,” being cognizant that HR was being treated as the police in the company rather than a partner to help make business decisions. Instead of “no,” they had to explain the pros and cons to help supervisors make decisions which they would have to be responsible for. The trick is focusing in to find the thing to stop doing that sends the message that it really is no longer business as usual.


One thought on “Manage Change by Stopping

  1. Ellen

    I’m reading a book about some writing consultants going into a middle school where they are to “help teachers teach writing better.” The problem is, the teachers are also being held accountable for a very rigid language arts program, in which the only writing is in 7th grade (that’s the year it’s tested, of course) and it’s strictly formatted “5-paragraph persuasive essays.” They certainly haven’t been told what to omit in order to make room for what the consultants have to offer. Only two teachers are giving it a try, and only because they are flying under the radar. They’re having great results with the kids–but one has left for an administrative position and the other one is leaving for a different school at the end of the year.

    They definitely need someone to say the right sort of NO.


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