Informing the IBM Community


Resistance. Inertia. It’s hard to understand why people don’t do what they know they should be doing.

This inertia isn’t just for people who really need to go to the gym or stop losing hours on Facebook. There’s also such a thing as Corporate Inertia.

When you’re introducing some IT solution which will address a specific business problem, this resistance can come as quite a surprise.

You see a business running on an old application, using ageing hardware and quite exposed. They have done little to futureproof their business, and you’re wondering why they haven’t replaced that old IBM Power 6 server, or moved onto newer, supported applications.

You start the conversation with a company. You diagnose their problem. They seem interested, maybe even keen. You put together a demo and you answer their objections.

Then comes silence.

Why Didn’t They Call Back?

You wonder what you were doing wrong? Actually, it may not be you at all, so don’t take it personally.

There’s a very good chance that the people you’re talking to are facing some resistance to your solution from people who you’re not talking to.

How do you break through that?

I’d like to share with you an approach you could take. It’s simply answering a series of questions:

What’s the problem, exactly?

Why is this a problem? (Financial impact, compliance, lost time)

What would an ideal situation look like?

How would you measure the benefits of that improved situation?

Who would need to be involved in bringing this about? (your team, other teams)

What’s In It For You?

Now, for your own team, what’s the benefit of this solution?

What’s the immediate benefit of bringing this about?

What’s the long-term benefit?

If we don’t change anything, what’s the impact?

Now, do the same for the other team(s) involved.

List 2 or 3 immediate benefits to them of bringing this solution.
(Be as concrete and specific as possible. Avoid terms such as “more efficiency” or “reduce the overall cost”. Think of a simple example that will be relevant to them.)

List 3 long-term benefits to them of bringing about this solution.

What is the impact to them if they don’t change anything?

How to Get Things Done

Often a project or task can be too overwhelming, so we sit, procrastinating. There’s a very simple way to break through this resistance: break it down.

That “break-it-down” approach works when the resistance is coming from someone else as well, such as from some other team.

So, here’s the next question:

What’s the very first step that needs to be done. Make this as small and achievable as you can. It should be something you can measure easily.

Measure Resistance

What are some reasons that would get in the way of this?
“We’re too busy.”
“We don’t understand your procedures.”

It’s also helpful to set a deadline for taking the first step.

The following three questions are a powerful way of breaking through inertia:
• What’s in it for us now?
• What’s the long-term benefit?
• What’s the opportunity cost if we do nothing?

If you can teach your contacts at a company to ask these questions, you can help them focus on the benefits to everyone of solving a business problem. That sort of help you offer can be enough to get your solution across the line.


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