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JEFFREY TOBIN: Dark side of the moon

on June 22, 2014 1:50 AM

“We choose to go to the moon.” President John F. Kennedy spoke these words on Sept. 12, 1962. The bewildered crowd of 35,000 people rose up in anger, wondering why he would set such an irrational goal.

They threw tomatoes, screamed obscenities and objections and lit the stadium on fire. “It can’t be done!” “You must be crazy!” “We don’t have the technology!” As a result, the goal of landing on the moon was scrapped forever.

Well, OK. I lied. It didn’t really happen that way.

But can you imagine what the world would be like today if it had? We might never have benefited from the many inventions that came from the program. Some examples are pumps for the artificial heart, memory foam, freeze-dried food, wireless devices, even Dustbusters.

It’s hard enough to make change at some organizations without mutiny. Imagine setting a goal as great as landing on the moon!

Just bring up the word “change” and a huge brick wall often goes up between your staff and the future. So how did the scientists succeed? They didn’t choose to go to the moon; no, that was too big of a project. Instead, they identified and solved the many small challenges that made up that one fearsome goal.

Here’s how you can achieve your goal despite objections from your team.

The wall represents the barrier we instinctively put up between ourselves and our successes. When challenged, it is natural for the mind to erect this wall from myriad potential fears that present themselves. Each problem raised is like a brick. One brick is placed upon another until the wall seems insurmountable, and we give up.

You can breach this wall. First, identify each “brick” that impedes your progress. Bring your resources to bear upon just a few of these bricks, and you will find the whole wall crumbling before you.

Here’s what to do.

Prepare your team: Explain that a big challenge is ahead and that cool heads will prevail.

Revive the past: Bring up significant past challenges that were successfully overcome by teamwork.

State the challenge: Make it brief. Make it clear.

Hear every objection: Present the concept of the great wall. Without any discussion, (you must moderate this!) list each concern, or brick, for all to see.

Prioritize by importance and by difficulty: As a team, pick the first “bricks” to destroy.

Devise possible solutions for each selected brick: Ask, “How can we … ?”

Prioritize and create an action plan: Who is responsible? When is it due?

Like the goal of landing on the moon, your fearsome challenge is not a singular ominous entity. It is really nothing more than a number of smaller problems that need your attention. Objections are the dark side of any significant challenge. But those objections can be overcome by destroying the obstacle, one brick at a time.

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