Dear Colleagues

Often, one of the most challenging things is to persuade your engineering colleagues to take a particular course of action such as telling them a different way is better, more effective, or just the right thing to do. When change is involved, as we all know, there is always enormous inertia in acting. Reactions range from outright hostility or resistance to indifference (as someone pointed out to me a few years ago – “re-engineering the already re-engineered corporation” – people simply become exhausted with constant change and then resigned to someone persuading them to change).

Engineering Professionals may be Objective
As engineering professionals we may all be utterly objective and rational. However, you will find that everyone has a totally different perspective of a given situation and you can never assume other professionals will come to the same conclusion as you. You have to think of the other views of a particular situation when considering how to get them to change.

Change is sometimes a good thing
So herewith a few suggestions on persuading your peers that change is indeed a good thing.

  • Focus on the good things that will come about as a result of the change. You are doing it to improve processes or the life of your co-workers. You are not doing it to punish them.
  • Link the proposed change to common goals that you all agree on and share.
  • Anticipate all the reasons why people will disagree and prepare for them. Bring out these possible changes into the open and discuss them openly and positively. Listen carefully to the others who are not enthusiastic about your changes proposed.
  • Avoid using the words: “No”, “but” or “however” in your responses. They send a negative signal to the other party. Often just say “Thank you for your comments”.
  • Avoid getting into a full-on argument. How many times have you changed someone’s opinion because of an argument ? Rarely, I would suggest.

Remember Benjamin Franklin’s take on persuasion: If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.

Thanks to Susan De La Vergne of the IEEE for an interesting piece on the Inexact Science.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve