HYCS #26 – Is this Resistance?

HYCS #26 – Is this Resistance?

Sometimes the client data dump is resistance, sometimes it’s the mother lode.  Often it’s both.  Here’s something that will help.

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Word Count: 783

Reading Time: under 3 minutes

Assignment Time:  Zip, nada, zero

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Do you remember the credits in the Star Wars movies?  The names of the cast and crew emerge from all the stars in the galaxy rushing past you.  The names linger for a moment so you can read them, then they appear to move past you.  That’s how I feel in client meetings sometimes:  All the stars in the universe are rushing at me, and I’m trying to read the credits.

Sometimes my clients are trying to get so much information out they don’t realize they are contradicting each other.  Sometimes they don’t realize they are contradicting themselves.  I can feel my brain start to overload and stutter.  I do everything I teach:  I paraphrase, I summarize, I toss out wild interpretations, looking for the thing that will make the first step, or the most important thing pop out.

In one such meeting, my clients are excitedly describing a gargantuan organizational change project.  They seem very clear that it is a huge change that will take many months to accomplish, but I am not yet understanding that they want to accomplish or where to begin.  So far it seems they want to create many new positions, train people for them, charter several new groups and, have this new structure  influence decision-making at their organization as well as cure the common cold.

I’ve read the articles, seen what the literature says, and am up on the jargon of their profession.  Except for the curing the common cold, their goals are all within reach.  They have the energy, enthusiasm, budget and commitment.  We need a place to start, and an orderly way to proceed.  All my attempts to clarify that are met with more information, which is a form of resistance.  But what are they resisting?  I decide to bet on the overwhelming complexity of moving 1100 entrenched people into new ways of relating.

I need something – anything – that might tame the complexity.  I need a model.   I need an organizational change model.  Lucky me!  There are so many to choose from.  Several come to mind, each as complicated as the reality I’m trying to simplify.

In desperation, I pick the basic one I use for my tiny, simple business:  Strategy, Structure, Skills.   I like it because it’s easy to remember, and quick to apply.  I draw a circle around each word, explaining as I go:

“Strategy is the reason I’m doing something, the “why” of it and the result I want.  I want the Structure I use to support my accomplishing that.  The Skills are the actions that real people need to take in real time.  When all three are in proper alignment, accomplishing my goals is inevitable.  Is this a useful way to categorize what you need to do?”

The silence that follows lasts just long enough for me to think “uh-oh…”  And then something truly amazing happens:  Everyone becomes calmer and one person talks at a time.  They fill out the model, with their information, pulling my pad of paper over to them and quickly organizing what they’ve spent the last 20 minutes overwhelming each other with.

What a relief!  A good model is like a tranquilizer dart.  It soothes the anxious client group by allowing them to think together.   It works pretty well for the anxious consultant too.

Sometimes all a “resistant” client needs is a way to tame the complexity of their situation so they can get a grip on it.  Until they can do that, their complex reality has a grip on them.   When the complexity is too big for a simple paraphrase, use a model.

It Doesn’t have to be Perfect

Models that don’t quite fit – that aren’t perfect or complete or even well thought through can work just as well as the ones that fit perfectly.    Don’t wait until you’ve got it all figured out and can wow them with your brilliance.  Show your clients your thinking.  Use “I” statements.  Invite them to make the model theirs.  Use a model to think through your client’s situation.  That’s how a model cements a partnership.

Your Assignment

Find a moment in a meeting to share one of your personal models with a client.  The moment you’re looking for needn’t be dramatic.   Let the model you share show your client something about you and the way you think.  Then ask them how they think.  I think you’ll be amazed at how a simple model can draw people out.