How To Handle Negative Reactions To Your Lean Six Sigma Solutions

Posted by on Oct 18, 2020 in DMAIC Improve Phase, Lean Six Sigma | 0 comments

Not all your proposed solutions to problems will be accepted without question.  Inorder not to be caught off-guard, you need to anticipate and be prepared for negative reactions to your proposed solutions.

Negative reactions to ideas have occurred throughout history.  When Nicolaus Copernicus, the famous astronomer, presented his original idea that the sun, rather than the earth, is the center of the solar system, he was scoffed at by many of the religious leaders of his time.  When Galileo took up Copernicus’s cause, he fared no better.  Everyone thought he was a madman and wanted him executed as a heretic.

When Charles Newbold invented the cast-iron plow, farmers rejected it because they believed it would pollute the soil.  Before Chester Carlson finally found a company that took an interest in his copying machine, today’s Xerox copier, five years had elapsed, and more than 20 companies had rejected his idea.

The lesson in these cases, and thousands of others like them, is that negative reactions to creative ideas are not only common but also predictable.  Knowing that, wise Lean Six Sigma practitioners do their best to anticipate negative responses and prepare to meet them before they occur.

Negative reactions are hard to predict because they can vary with the particulars of your solution.  However, certain broad reactions tend to occur again and again.  Here are some of the more common negative reactions you may hear:

  • The idea is impractical.
  • The idea is too expensive.
  • The idea is inefficient.
  • The idea is unworkable.
  • The idea will disrupt existing procedures.
  • The idea is too radical.

One cause of negative reactions to solutions is lack of understanding about what the solutions are and how they will work.  Most people don’t listen or read attentively.  One study has shown that the average person listens with between 25 percent and 50 percent accuracy.  And the level of reading attentiveness is often not much better.  To overcome this negative reaction, spend time with the individual stakeholders to understand their concerns and incorporate them into your solution.

A second cause is bad thinking habits.  Some of these bad habits, that deserve close attention are mine-is-better habit, face saving, and resistance to change.

The mine-is-better habit stems from our childhood days.  As children, we all said, “My bike is better than your bike!” or “My dad is stronger than your dad.”  The trouble is at the time we believed what we said.  This assertion of our superiority was an expression of our ego.  This habit does not go away easily as we grow up and if someone proposes a change we say they are too radical or a troublemaker.  This reaction can be overcome by getting those that work in the process involved.  Let them be part of the solution, so they take ownership in making it successful.

Face saving is another natural tendency arising from our ego.  It often occurs after we’ve said or done something that threatens to alter our self-image or the image others have of us.  A common form of face saving is the excuse, “It wasn’t my fault.”  Another more dangerous form of face saving is rationalizing, where we set out to defend our ideas rather than to find out the truth about the matter at hand.  To control this face saving tendency, be alert for occasions when you threaten someones ego and remember not to place blame but go after the system’s related issues when proposing your solution.

Resistance to change is the tendency to reject new ideas and new ways of seeing or doing without examining them fairly.  One of the biggest causes of this habit and our tendency to resist change is simple laziness.  We get use to things one way and resent being asked to do them differently because it will make us break our routine.  In this situation, it is best to articulate the benefits of the proposed solution.  I always like to pilot the solution(s) so I can collect data to ensure the solution(s) is doing what is intended.  When trying to sell a solution, having accurate data will go a long way in convincing people that there is a better way.  “Everyone working smarter, not harder!” is hard to refute.


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