Monday, May 4, 2009

Making No a good thing.

Different organizations have different cultures. In some organizations, it is very difficult to reach agreement. A 'yes' answer may obligate a person to a lot of support work, or it may be seen as too risky or too aggressive. A yes answer may normally only be culturally acceptable from only the most technically knowledgeable, so those who feel they aren't the smartest on the topic will be silent. What can you do to make project progress in such a culture?

Make a 'no' answer the progressive choice. For example, if a project faces a decision node with two options, instead of asking the team to select one and getting frustrated at the sound of crickets in reply, instead ask which one the team doesn't want to do. The discussion then may be quite active in putting down the less desirable option.

Don't make it a head game. Instead, realize that the culture is such that no answers simply are easier to arrive at than yes answers. Use it to your advantage in order to keep things rolling.

A bonsai gardener applies the same principle in developing a beautiful plant to a pleasing form through pruning. Each time the gardener prunes a branch, the gardener is selecting the branch that was not cut to be the one that thrives. In the same way, acknowledge your organization's culture and work with it to advance your projects and reduce your frustration.

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