‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it’

Tried to drive change but still feel that things aren’t working? 

 All too often initiatives are considered to have not worked, with little regard for whether the right steps were taken to implement them.

Problem: Believing in a single solution

So you anticipated a problem, you planned for it and still something went wrong? It does happen and will happen. But whatever you do don’t accept one solution as your only solution.


1) Take a multi-pronged approach from the start. ‘I will do this, but in case that fails I will also …’. Try also to vary your method – rather than ‘if I email and don’t get a reply, I will email again’, try ‘if I email (written, distant) and don’t get a reply, I will seek face-to-face contact/phone (verbal, personal)’. 

2) Knowing your stakeholders will also help to support this: ‘I know this group are likely to… so I will plan for this by …’ 

3) Learn from your mistakes and ask yourself how you could have approached the problem differently – ‘I could have also ensured that…’. Hindsight is a wonderful thing especially if you learn from it. 

Problem: Assuming others understand

This is particularly the case for internal customers. Often I hear terms like ‘they should know this’, or ‘we’ve told them before’.  Remember though, organisations are messy creatures and stakeholders hear lots of different messages from lots of people, often about the very same thing.


1) Consider the issues your stakeholders may have had in the communication of your initiative and (if necessary) engage with them to do this. Plan for this and ensure that details that stakeholders may have heard conflicting messages about are confirmed with them.

2) Consider how small politics, anxiety, internal competition, and culture might have affected the way in which stakeholders perceived your initiative/or the communication of it. Understanding the whole picture might prove highly valuable.

Problem: Impatience

You’ve planned, you’ve done it – you just want it to work. But is impatience stopping your initiative being at its best?


1) Treat the initiative as an experiment (be curious) and acknowledge that good things take time and a great deal of adjustment.

Problem: Arrogance

People didn’t get it the first time round? ‘Well they’ll see they have to do it eventually because it is the only option’. Your initiative may well be superior, your department too, but bearing this in mind might not help you to onboard those that you need, and certainly not in a timely way. Don’t get in the mindset that you tried with a great approach and it failed and so it is now a lost cause.


If at first you don’t succeed try, and try again (perhaps with some adjustments…). Consider the failings and rather than looking to blame others consider how you could have performed better. Put yourself into the others’ shoes.