Do you find that no matter how hard you try you always seem to have some people who refuse to join in with your improvement initiative? How do you deal with them?

Well here is a really useful analogy I learned from my training days with the Nissan, Toyota and Honda master trainers. It works for me every time.

First let’s imagine a team playing on a field.



10% of your team are playing towards goal.

10% are being defensive.

80% are waiting in the midfield to see if they can move towards goal, or if they need to rush back and defend.

This is like your team at work. 10% are striving for improvement and embracing change. 10% are resisting change and new ideas; they defend the status quo. The remaining 80% are waiting to see what happens and then will rush to the end that appears to need them the most.

How do you get everybody to move forwards?

Option 1: Tackle the defenders

You spend a lot of your time working with the people resisting change, trying to persuade them to see your point of view. Maybe you give up and transfer them to another department or even sack them!

But beware! Let us think about the garden newt.


What happens if we cut the tail off the newt? ……………..In  a little while it grows back!

And this will happen if you follow option 1. If you pay a lot of attention to the 10% resisiting change or worse, get rid of them, your midfield watchers will rush to assist those defenders. Result – distrust spreads, more defenders of the status quo, and your initiative loses momentum and fails.

Option 2: Concentrate on the attackers

Pay a lot of attention to the 10% going forwards, work with them, and celebrate their successes. The 80% in midfield will start to rush forwards as well and join the attack. Result – feel good factor, more people attack and the initiative gains momentum.

But what about the tail? The tail actually follows along, it may never move into attack, but it does move forwards from its original position. It may even decrease in size.  However the tail will always be there, you can’t cut it off!

A cautionary tale

One day I forgot about this analogy and I attempted to engage one member of the team who was particularly reticent about joining in with the kaizen event. I asked him to go and take the team photos for me, so we could use them as part of the event story.

15 minutes later he proudly returned, not with a set of photos, but with a trail of other team members who suddenly didn’t want to be photographed or be part of the event! Too late I remembered about the newt’s tail and it took a lot of extra work to get the team back on board.

Have you had similar experiences? Let me know how you move your whole team forwards.


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