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How to handle obstacles

Sarah Willcox

Image of scattered building blocks illustrating the Fairisle article How to handle obstacles

The obstacles are all there; there are a million of ‘em. But if you want to do something, you do it anyway, and handle the obstacles as they come.

Benny Goodman to Glenn Miller

Part of the work of managing change effectively is looking at and planning responses to both resistance and risk. Anticipating and reducing the size and potential impact of these are clearly sensible things to do, and will smooth the way for the changes that you want to make.

Where to begin?

The difficulty is that if we’re not careful, we can begin to suffer from the kind of paralysis that is brought on by spending too much time in the company of a risk register. We try and anticipate all of the problems we might encounter. Every last one of them. And solve them before they come up. And even when we get going, we want to try and ignore some of the uncomfortable ones when they appear. When considering these factors, it’s very difficult to know where to begin.

So the solution to this is that you start work. And you deal with the obstacles. As they appear.

Questions to ask

When they do appear, of course you need an approach for dealing with them effectively. We shared one of our approaches in a session at the Brighton Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Summit on Friday. It received a very positive response, so it might work for whatever obstacles you’re currently facing. Amongst the questions explored in the sessions, we asked:-

  • Are you struggling to understand what kind of obstacle you’re facing?
  • Is the block personal? Or a process issue?
  • Perhaps it’s external to your organisation?
  • What kind of impact is it actually having on your business?


We covered other aspects of obstacles in more detail than is possible here, but addressing these questions systematically can help you prioritise the most pressing challenges in your path and give you the leverage you need to overcoming them. Really being attentive to what is in the way can sometimes take a bit of courage but having done so, you may well find taking action is simpler than you thought.

Not everyone who wanted to was able to come to our session, so get in touch and if there are enough numbers we’ll run it again for you.