The change agent is always challenging the status quo, and encountering opposition. If a constituent says, “This won’t work,” or “We’ve tried this before and it failed,” the change agent must be able to successfully handle the situation.
There is a method from the practice of Aikido, called tenkan, that works well in this situation. Tenkan means “turn”. When the attacker approaches, the aikidoist offers peace by extending an open hand, as a gesture of reconciliation. The attacker grabs the hand as a means to overcome the gesture, and throws a punch. But before the punch is executed, the aikidoist executes the carefully practiced technique of tenkan, moving away from danger by turning her body to face the same way as the attacker, while maintaining contact, in case further control is needed. The aikidoist maintains proper balance, keeping her hands extended in front of her center, maintaining a friendly demeanor, as if no attack were intended. But she has arrested the attack, and because she is still in contact, she can apply much more convincing controls if the attacker persists. The application of tenkan in the business setting is also to turn – to turn the attack, which are just words, into a friendly exchange.
“Turn up what sounds good, turn down what sounds bad,” said the famous Nashville record producer Jack Clement. If the producer hears a musician play something that doesn’t make the song sound better, he just turns it down. He amplifies what sounds good – to place emphasis on it.
I once proposed to a large manufacturing site that we run a trial of the 8D’s, and at the end of the presentation, an operations manager responded that he wasn’t willing to try it until he saw it work somewhere else. That it had been tried and failed before. He then exclaimed that everyone had to get on board and do this if it was going to work. So, while not debating the fact that we hadn’t tried this before, I agreed with and expounded on the need for everyone to execute the 8D’s in their entirety for the trial to succeed.
Maintain your desire to help. Find the good and turn it up by repeating it, expanding on it; give credit. Don’t take the bait of discussing red herrings and thereby lose the initiative. Turn the adversary’s words into energy that propels the team toward the goal. Tenkan.