Member Katy Spink Speaks: Turn the Battleship by Planting Seeds

The Challenge:

The case at hand was brought by an executive who was convinced that the company was headed in the wrong direction. However, many members of the team, including very senior members, had already bought into the current strategy and were fully committed in many ways.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

If I were in your position, I’d certainly advocate for what strategy I thought best. However, to avoid upsetting the apple cart, I would gradually plant seeds among my colleagues rather than take the prevailing winds head on.

They say, “don’t change horses midstream.” And yet in today’s hyper business world, following the wrong strategy for even a few months can be terminal. If I were in your shoes, I’d be tempted to loudly disagree with the current direction and aggressively push a competing vision. However, this tactic runs the risk of alienating colleagues who have heavily bought into the status quo. A major strategy shift would have significant implications for them – and likely not all positive. Pushing too hard for change like this could even be career-limiting.

While the strategy shift may have merit, I would still want to be very thoughtful about the way I give that message to other members of the organization. I would plant seeds with colleagues who I considered most likely be open to the suggestion. Let’s call it planting seeds in the most fertile ground. I had a lot of practice doing just that when I was a management consultant and needed to effect change in a group of people who were often skeptical of me. By allowing an idea to work its way through the organization over a period of time, we were able to accomplish broad and meaningful change.