Unsupportive Support

Why would you ever want to be unsupportive of improvement?

Working as an improvement consultant I sometimes come across stakeholders who are unsupportive of the work.

It always strikes me as a somewhat odd position to take.   If you think about it, there is very little to gain from being unsupportive of improvements.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about external consultants like us; the same is true of internal consultants or even if the improvements are being delivered by internal teams, departments and divisions.

Let’s take a look at a basic grid looking at 2 different aspects. Firstly, whether the improvement is deemed to be successful or unsuccessful and secondly, whether you were supportive or unsupportive of the improvement activity.

No matter whether the improvements were successful or not, there is really little value coming in on the ‘unsupportive’ side of the fence.

If you have a legitimate concern about the proposed improvement (for example, that it will have the opposite effect or have an unforeseen detriment to the customer etc), then you can call this out whilst still being supportive of the change.

I think this is a great idea and I’m all for it. Has anyone looked at the impact this might have on customer retention? Is it worth piloting the improvement to see if there is an impact?

But let’s be clear. If you were to say “I don’t want to do this as I think it will negatively impact retention”, then you are being unsupportive. This is because you’ve not provided any reason or evidence for the statement. It’s just a negative opinion.

In fact, any comment that basically says “I don’t think it will work” without a clear explanation of why, is unsupportive.

I think it’s also important to ensure that people know you are supportive. If you say or do nothing publicly, but work hard in the background, you run the risk of the perception being that you weren’t supportive (when in fact, the opposite is true).

Because whether you like it or not, perception matters.