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Two types of opponents: FOOT DRAGGERS vs. TORPEDOES

#NimbleVlog Season 1 Episode 5Building on the previous three episodes, ORCHANGO’s president & co-founder Edmond Mellina explains the difference between the Foot Draggers and Torpedoes at the bottom of the Ladder of Commitment-Resistance™ (a nimble tool to work with and through the politics of change). Both are Opponents but in different ways. He highlights some of the implications for change & transformation leaders…


Reading time: about 4 minutes

We are continuing our series of episodes about the ORCHANGO Ladder of Commitment and Resistance™ which is the nimble tool that we use to work with and through the politics of corporate transformation. [The] last episode was about the top of the Ladder, with the Helpers and the Campaigners. Today, it’s about the bottom – which is actually the mirror image of the top.

Let’s start with the Foot Draggers. They are the exact opposite of the Helpers. They don’t like the change and they are trying to slow you down on the technical front. And because they go about it mostly in a passive-aggressive way, we call them the Foot Draggers.

So for example, they are very good at finding excuses to explain why they didn’t deliver things, or they could not make it for a meeting, this kind of things. They will say: “Oh, sorry, the CEO asked us for this urgent report. We had no choice but to switch priorities”. Yeah, sure…

But above all, the Foot Draggers are masters at throwing challenges at you. With statements like: “This is not going to work because…”; “We tried that before and…”; “The customer is never going to go with this innovation…”; “This is against our policies…”; “Have you thought about…” this kind of statements.

Can you picture some Foot Draggers from your real world? I’m pretty sure you can, because there lots of them out there. And myself, when I didn’t like a change, I’ve been acting as a Foot Dragger at times.

The biggest trap with Foot Draggers is to get into a non-productive – useless actually – back-and-forth with them. Because they love it when it’s happening, because they are wasting your time: they are slowing you down. So this is the way [they go] about it: you interact with a bunch of Foot Draggers and they are throwing a challenge at you. And you provide a beautiful answer because with your team you thought about it. In fact, they are not even listening to you. Or actually they are listening a little bit because you might say something they might be able to use against you. But mostly, their brain is thinking about the next challenge they’re going to throw at you. And it goes like that back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth.

And they are happy because they are wasting your time and your energy. So don’t fall into that trap!

The Torpedoes….

You remember from the last episode, the Campaigners were Helpers on steroids. Same thing here: the Torpedoes are Foot Draggers on steroids. And the same way the Campaigners were working both on the technical dimension and the people dimension, the [Torpedoes] they do the same things as the Foot Draggers on the technical front – to slow you down.

But they are also very active on the people front. They are trying to build a campaign – a negative campaign – against the transformation.

So again, as we talked about last time, be strategic in how you use your time and energy because you have a limited amount of that. So, if a Torpedo has not a lot of influence, forget about them; don’t lose sleep on them. However, if you have an influential Torpedo, then you will need to do something about it.

BTW – it’s typically relatively easy to spot a Torpedo at the beginning of a transformation journey. Because contrary to the passive-aggressive Foot Draggers, they have no problem telling you in your face that they don’t like the idea of the transformation. After a while however, they tend to become quiet. And on my end when this was happening initially in my career, wishful thinking: I thought they were stepping up the Ladder. Phew… Well, most often than not, a vocal Torpedo that is suddenly becoming quiet is now super active behind the scene building this negative campaign against your transformation… So watch out!

[In the] next episode of the #NimbleVlog, we are going to tackle the remaining piece of the Ladder, which is a very important portion where you have very distinct – where you have lots of people first – but also where you have very distinct smiley faces: the Skeptics and the Wind Watchers…

Previous episodes in this series about the Ladder

Headshot Of Edmond Mellina, ORCHANGO's President & Co-Founder

Edmond is ORCHANGO's president & co-founder.

He is internationally respected for his expertise in nimble change leadership and culture change. For the past 30 years, he has been executing strategic transformations, building agile capabilities, and advising clients across sectors in Europe, North America and the Middle East.

He is a former corporate transformation executive in drastically changing industries: CIO at Delta Hotels when Expedia disrupted the hotel business; and VP Corporate Development & General Manager USA for the technology business of Envoy Communication Group when design and marketing agencies started to become digital.

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