The Alternative to Juggling Monkeys

It is 2007 and I am sitting in a tiny conference room in a large, multi-national organization in Europe, packed tight with eight people. A revolutionary idea for business improvement is being presented, and everyone is eager, having dropped his or her day’s work to join this impromptu session. If the company can implement fast enough, this way of working will become their competitive edge.

The first slide shows the value of success in dollars. The second shows a region-by-region timeline for global execution. The third slide reads, Buy-In. Here the presenter says, “We get buy-in from managers and front line staff .” Then he moves on. Someone interrupts, “Wait a minute! How are you going to do that? This is a real issue for us. We don’t have a history of success in our region.”

Long pause.

“I don’t know. We’ll use some change management stuff. Last time we brought in juggling monkeys. They seemed to work pretty well.” Everyone laughs. Then the presentation moves on. No one addressed buy-in seriously.

Two hours later I am in the senior sponsor’s office. He is talking me to me because I am the change management guy and he wants an alternative to juggling monkeys. He says, “People didn’t take us seriously. What can you do for us?”

I introduce him to my approach, which is all about identifying and bringing your most valuable stakeholders together to generate transformation. It is the single most powerful technique for breaking logjams, overcoming obstacles, and accelerating complex change. It works through engagement, generating buy-in that is based in self-interest.

It sure beats juggling monkeys.

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