Stop playing dodgeball

Growing up, one of the many games I played with my friends was dodgeball. It’s also a sport many of us haven’t given up – particularly in the workplace.

Reactions to organizational change can at times resemble a game of dodgeball. (Photo courtesy

On each side of the “gym” are functional teams that represent different departments and work on departmental goals and priorities. If a new initiative is launched, they try to dodge the responsibilities because they don’t align with priorities or most of the time they don’t know how they align. One fine day they hear from the CEO the new change needed to be implemented. People do everything to resist the change – think bullet-dodging a la The Matrix. This resistance sometimes comes in the form of excuses wrapped in the plausible explanation of having too much on the plate or not having enough resources to take on the new challenge.

Why do people resist? One thing we all know is that change is difficult. How many times have you made New Year’s resolutions? Another reason is there is not enough emphasis on why the change is being made and how it aligns with the mission and vision of the organization.

One other key reason that leaders forget is the need to have a candid discussion with people who will need to implement the change. In a game of catch-ball, you have to look at the person to whom you are throwing the ball and strategize such that he/she does not drop it. The catcher has to pay attention as well. The Toyota leadership style involves the catch-ball process for communication. The leader shares the vision with his/her team. The team converts the vision in actionable items and presents the challenges of implementing the vision to the leader. The leader may stick to the vision but he/she listens, empathizes and proposes how the hurdles can be overcome. Based on the feedback from the team the leader might also adjust the vision to make it more realistic and practicable. The team and the leader agree on what’s possible and what’s not and how it can be implemented. They check in with each other from time to time to ensure progress.  It’s win-win situation.

If you have been playing dodgeball, now is time to switch. Play catch ball. Get your team on board. Make them want the change.

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