The Law of Miu

In change management, one of the most important roles is to challenge the status quo. As my mentor, Dickie Bielenberg taught me, “Adele, apply the law of miu”.

Miu is an old Chinese concept which is all about proposing the opposite of what is being assumed true. Often in business, we assume that whatever the client tells us MUST be true. Great consultants ALWAYS challenge the status quo and ask WHY that issue appears to be an issue in the first place.

Here is a case study from a recent client experience:

A team has always run their billing cycle in a particular way. Marge was the most senior person in this team and the process she had created involved looking at all the client contracts and then filling out a spreadsheet of who is to be billed. She takes her time painstakingly (and manually) recording each contract’s little nuance and deciding what type of invoice to produce. The team then has a word template they use to fill in each invoice manually based on what she produced in the spreadsheet. The billing cycle takes 3-4 weeks and Marge’s entire life is spent maintaining this cycle with love and care. This was until the big bosses came along and decided that manual billing should be automated. Marge was pretty traumatised. By the time we came in, billing had already been automated and there were loads of issues. The team were furious. They were not consulted and Marge personally spent a great deal of time arguing for why the process HAD to be done manually and was angry that no one had listened to her in the first place.

The directors did not want to ask the team their opinion because they were so fixated on the manual process – they thought it better to force the change through. Yeah – that clearly wasn’t working for them as they now had a revolt.

Back to basics: Clearly there was something amiss. The manual process took too much time but the automated process had gaps.

We handled it by applying the law of MIU, namely sitting down with the manual billing team and telling them to imagine that this process had never been automated – life was still happy and calm and billing was still a manual process.

  1. We then began by asking why the process HAD to be done manually and
  2. What would happen if the process was to be automated

We went back to the ‘good old day’s when the process was manual and spent time with Marge who waxed lyrical about it’s awesomeness.

By applying the law of miu – We kept asking those 2 questions over and over again – always showing that we were interested in the answers, the risks and potential issues which would arise if the process was to be automated.

We merely mirrored those issues which the team themselves discovered, back to them. Through this process, Marge herself realised the issues with the process being manual. We watched her come to those conclusions herself by applying the laws of asking why. We then had a lunch break. During the break, I casually mentioned to Marge that it would be wonderful if she designed the automated process as she was best placed to do so. I planted a small seed of suggestion. She mulled over it and after lunch, went to the director and volunteered her services – he was thrilled.

We appointed Marge the chief designer of this process as she understood all the pitfalls of automation and she designed a process of manual checks for the automated process with our help. She redesigned the automated process from scratch – the IT team implemented the new process by making tweaks to the old one and the manual billing team was on board, happy and empowered. She was the owner of the process and was in charge of the training and implementation. She was chuffed.

The rule is – people are happy to change, if you simply guide them through a journey of change, RESPECT their inputs and enormous experience and you find a way for the team to OWN the change. By management forcing the change onto Marge and her team, it caused friction, resistance and rejection of the process. Job satisfaction and morale went out of the window.

Whenever you skip steps in introducing a change or assume understanding or invalidate any part of the experience of those who are the subject of the change – you create friction and resistance.

Introducing a change into an organisation requires some steps to be followed. If one of these steps are skipped, friction will occur. If you find that a change was forced on you or a team and there is friction –> take a step back and apply the following change principles developed by me over 15 years in the change world:

1. RESPECT: Have you given them an opportunity to air their grievances? Half the reason there is resistance is because people feel unheard. Ask them what they have heard or what issues they currently have. Reassure them that you are listening and interested. Record their grievances somewhere for ALL to see. Respect builds trust and rapport

2. LISTEN: Always ask how they do things right now (the AS IS Process) and praise the many things they do and empathise with how difficult and important their role is

3. CONTEXT: Has the correct context been put in place? (Has the WHY been explained to the group to ensure everyone understands the reason and context behind the change and more importantly the role THEY play in this change

4. TRANSPARENCY: Has the whole change been explained? Many people ASSUME everyone understands WHAT is involved and their own discomfort in the situation means they skipped steps in the process. Ensure everyone knows WHAT is happening and reiterate the role THEY play in this change. Additionally, the more transparent you are, the more people come on board

5. OWNERSHIP: Has the process of the change been explained? Explain the bare-bones of how you see this change taking place BUT ask for their inputs so they feel PART of the change and can OWN the change. Again record their inputs for ALL to see

6. MIU: Always test WHY something has to be done in a particular way – to unearth business transformation opportunities and test assumptions

7. THANK: Always thank people for their inputs and check in to ensure that people are comfortable. Here your skills at persuasion, reading body language and building rapport are critical

Hope this helps you in your transition management!

Till next time



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