Slaying Dragons

At some point in the distant past, a client was describing the problems he was having implementing a particularly tricky change policy on his company. While listening to him I realised that I’d been through this situation several times myself so we discussed what his options were to overcome objectors. Out of that discussion came a process I call “Slaying Dragons” which has the express aim of enhancing buy-in to change and strategy. One of it’s advantages is that it is as powerful working on the board of directors as it is in, say, the fleet management team. Another of it’s advantages is that it is simple to understand and to implement.

What follows is a one page overview of Slaying Dragons so that you can get a feel of how it works. It has been a fun process to facilitate and the outcome has always been positive.


Slaying Dragons

Enhancing Buy-in

The Problem

One of the biggest problems faced by any leader is getting the team to understand, and more importantly, buy into a new strategy and/or plan of action.

Countless, and often precious, hours can be wasted persuading team members that a) the strategy makes sense and is the correct course of action and b) helping them to understand their role within the strategy. As we all know, team members are often afraid of change and what effect it might have on them and their jobs and so take entrenched positions which can ultimately harm both themselves, in terms of their career and standing amongst colleagues, or, more importantly, the success of the strategy.

Best Case Outcome

Clearly the best case outcome is that every member of the team instantly understands the strategy and the role they are required to perform. Sadly this almost never happens. Consequently we need to ensure that everyone understands and buys into the strategy collectively even if they are unsure or unhappy with the effect it might have on them personally. The power of this collective responsibility should never be underestimated, as not only is every member of the team committed to the agreed course of action, but they have also implicitly committed themselves to their colleagues to make it succeed; as we know, people are generally more worried about “losing face” with colleagues than just about anything else in the workplace. Slaying Dragons is a technique that delivers this. In anything complex in an organisation, many attitudes and anxieties (the “dragons”) remain hidden in “caves” and only come out later at inconvenient times, often with very disruptive effects on the change.

The Technique – Slaying Dragons

This workshop runs for about 4-5 hours (it can last longer than this depending upon numbers and the level of engagement from the participants) and uses a number of well understood concepts. It breaks down into 5 parts.

Part 1 – Strapping on Armour
Break up into pairs, choosing someone you do not know well or work closely with. Take turns to listen to each other and discovery 3 things that each of you is good at. Maximum 30 minutes total. (Appreciative Inquiry). This gets everyone into listening mode as opposed to talking mode.

Part 2 – Look into the Dragon’s Eye
Everyone comes up with a verb and a noun to describe the organisation. This is how the organisation is viewed today and is the starting point for change.

Part 3 – Taking Aim
Using the Value Discipline Model, everyone discusses where they believe the organisation is today. It is highly unlikely that there will be consensus.

Part 4 – Wielding the Sword
The same exercise as Part 2, but this time the words describe how the group sees the organisation at some agreed point in the future (i.e. in 2 years time).

Part 5 – Extinguishing the Flame
The group decides and agrees how to get from Today (Part 2) to Tomorrow (Part 4). This is where the proposed strategy can be analysed by the group and buy-in confirmed.


This technique is proven to be successful at achieving buy-in. It also has the (dis)advantage of modifying the strategy in real time based upon the group’s feedback. When this occurs, the buy-in is even stronger as the group recognises that it has shaped the outcome and is therefore even more committed to it.

1 Comment

  1. It does achieve buy in partly because when the board members see inconsistencies they cannot go silent, tactical or into denial. They have committed in Part 2 and have nowhere to go except forward.

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