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Dilbert on the Non-Answer

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Here’s an example of the opposite of improving business productivity: giving non-answers like “we don’t do it that way.” More from Scott Adams and Dilbert:

Take a look at a this strip:

Dilbert comic strip

Here’s a good of time as any to quote Grace Hopper, retired US Rear Admiral:

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.

The non-answer is one of the most significant problems in organizations. Instead of trying to explain why we’ve made choices, or how particular approaches are beneficial, many companies and non-profits tend to just avoid giving any details.

In fact, areas where we don’t have real answers are precisely the best place to look for areas to make business process improvements. Anytime someone says that it’s impossible or just has to be done that way, you know you must be on the right track.

Naturally, this isn’t the only Dilbert cartoon that deals with resistance to change at work. Here’s another classic:

Dilbert dealing with a lack of productivity due to resistance to change

Unfortunately, we can’t turn to Dilbert for the answer to these problems. But if we do want companies to be more productive and communication to be more effective, we need to have a response for the non-answer. Here are a few to consider:

Non-Answer: “We’ve always done it that way.”
Response: “True, but it must have started for some reason. If we don’t know the original reasons, we don’t know if they still apply.”

Answer: “The system won’t let me.”
Response: “What if we make a note about this work around, and follow up on  improving the system?”

Non-Answer: “I am just following instructions.”
Response: “That makes sense. I’d like to follow up with the person who wrote the instructions, if possible.”

Any ideas for your own for dealing with non-answers?

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


This is a headline for an anti-announcement.
@natfinn Go right ahead, right here. - 8 mins ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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