I was talking to someone recently that had to announce something new to his team that he felt would be “perceived” as bad. However, he also felt confident that it would lead to some great things afterward. He was concerned about the initial perception and anticipated pushback. He believed that this would keep the team from moving forward to implement the changes. I listened to his ideas and I agreed. There would be pushback AND it was the smart move. So, I told him to use the Cat’s on the Roof technique. He asked me what that was, so I shared this story with him:
The Cat’s on the Roof Technique
There were two brothers and one was going to take a vacation. So, the brother says to the other brother “can you look after my cat while I’m on vacation?” And the other brother says, “sure no problem.” A week later the brother comes back from vacation and says “how’s the cat?” And the other brother says “oh, sorry man, the cat’s dead.” The brother says “what?!” The other brother says, “yeah sorry, the cat died.” Then the brother says, “are you kidding me, man, you don’t just spring that on somebody!” The other brother says “how should I have done it?” The brother said, “I don’t know, prepare me a little, tell me ‘the cat was on the roof, and you walked out and saw it, it started sliding, you ran over to get it but you didn’t make it in time. You then took the cat to the vet to try to save it and then after that – you can say “I’m really sorry but your cat passed away. That’s the way you prepare somebody.” The other brother says, “got it, I understand now.”
Then the first brother changes the subject and asks, “How’s mom?” The other brother says “well, mom was on the roof.”
Change for innovation
People hate surprises they perceive to be negative. Change has elements of surprise to it. Even when people say they want to change they often don’t react well. When the change happens, they will often say something like, “yea I wanted to change but I didn’t think it would look like that!” Change scares people, even when it’s change that can lead to something better.
I have found the “Cat’s on the Roof Technique” is an excellent method you can use to transition people over time to something new. Don’t just spring change on people if you can avoid it. Do it with a lot of communication, gradually, over time.