You have probably heard the analogy of trying to guide or coordinate people who have their own agenda or views – that it is like herding cats. It’s often a battle dealing with people who think that they already have the right answer (or those who stick to, and defend, a historical way of doing things), and to try and bring them along to a common goal.
Professional people have often achieved their position through their skills and abilities (or simply through organic promotion) which gives them a sense that they know what they are doing, or know what is best. This can cause resistance to change that can be more difficult than it should be – like herding cats, they each have their own intentions and chasing down one can cause others to go off in another direction. In today’s culture and office society, we empower individuals to have their own views and use their skills to enact change. People are encouraged to break traditional barriers of hierarchy and process, to go their own way.
The analogy is apt – but what is the best approach to herding cats? Use catfood.
Herding cats with catfood
Another analogy that I have found useful is that herding cats with catfood can yield positive results. Instead of a focus on the journey and bringing people along through the entire process, take them to the destination, and make it so enticing and tasty that they will be drawn towards it. People may want to go off in their own directions, but as long as they are heading towards the final goal, it largely does not matter. The goal (product, solution, strategy, vision) should attract them, making their own views become just context for the journey, instead of de-railing the project.
To take the analogy deeper, the “catfood” is something that is appealing to the cats – not just ‘food’ or ‘treats’. The attractant needs to be tailored to the desires and needs of the individual ‘cats’. The destination can then be achieved by individuals heading to the same place.