In a big company, making something new happen is hard. Companies are goats. They’re stubborn. There’s a lot of reasons for that.
If you’re trying to make a new company (or division, or department, or LOB), it is even harder. That’s because of all the same reasons, plus even more reasons.
I won’t talk about the reasons here. There are many articles, posts, books, blogs, infographics, podcasts dedicated to the reasons. My opinion is that reasons are interesting, but they don’t help you make progress.
Reasons = excuses.
Here are some things you can try that eliminate the need for excuses.
I was (am always) struggling with getting some traction in a company for a new idea. This is a frequent issue for me (I have lots of ideas and I think they’re all great). The new idea is “strategic” (whatever that means). It has clear business value (on paper). Everyone wants to do it. Everyone agrees.
But no one is doing it.
Why? I don’t know, but I came up with some ideas to get going. Not all of these ideas are practical or applicable to every situation of course, but each has helped me at some point in my life and career.
My main hypothesis behind these ideas is that the easiest way to keep going forward is to start going forward.
Idea 1: Get customer feedback (endorsement) about your idea directly, and get it while you’re in the same room with decision makers.
Note that it doesn’t matter whether yours are internal customers, external customers, strategic partners, etc. — the process is the same.
This is different from the “standard way” of getting feedback which goes a little something like this:
- Design some kind of survey or questionnaire.
- Get a bunch of feedback, but not as much as you hope or want.
- Summarize it in some type of “Voice of Customer” report.
- Give it to management, who has a bunch of questions…why didn’t you ask this? Why did they respond that way? etc.
- Reach out to (annoy) your customers or partners or stakeholders again to get clarification.
- Repeat, and be very busy, while your day job suffers. Also, weeks and weeks go by while you chase people down. Also, you’re late for dinner a lot, you don’t have time to exercise. (this is purely hypothetical)
Short circuit this. Please. Get everyone in the same (physical or virtual) room. Your partners and customers will meet management, which will make them feel empowered. Management will talk directly to customers or partners and clarify months of packaging and delivering “customer surveys” in the span of one hour. Now you’re switching your efforts from chasing down surveys and compiling reports to facilitating…analyzing…creating value…and you’re saving time too.
Idea 2: Embrace objections. Revel in them. They will set you (and the change you want to make) free.
Everyone’s objecting…one person doesn’t think it will clear legal, another person doesn’t know if the data will be secure, do we have executive sponsorship, does this align with corporate strategy, etc. etc. People have a hard time coming up with ideas, until it’s time to come up with objections. There’s a thousand reasons not to do something.
You can’t prevent people from having objections. (That’s probably good anyway). So, get them all on the table at once. Tell everyone: send me all your objections BY FRIDAY. Give them a week (or a day).
Make the “objection collection” deliberate, intentional, time-bound. Make it part of your idea development process.
Collect these objections. Analyze them. You will learn something. Then get everyone together and talk through your analysis.
There will probably be three buckets:
- Bucket 1: things you don’t have to worry about. These come from people not understanding the idea. Solution: educate them.
- Bucket 2: things you have to worry about later (bringing in legal for example). That’s fine, log these, and deal with them when appropriate.
- Bucket 3: things you have to actually worry about right now. Get these on the table and talk about it now, move past it. Or maybe you’re screwed…better to find out now than 6 months from now.
Idea 3: Summarize your idea in one page. Then summarize that in a half a page. Then 3 sentences. Then one sentence. Then one word. Can you get to one word?
If your one word isn’t “profit” or “customers” or “marketshare” or “margin” then you’re going to have an uphill battle (assuming you’re running a for-profit company). If it’s not about expanding or reinforcing the business, you might have a shot if you’re advancing the company culture or directly implement — use numbers — a senior executive mandate. (Typically executive mandates are designed to make more money for the company somehow either directly or indirectly…hard to avoid that connection.)
If your idea does both…you have a runner.
When you explain your idea, start with your one word. Then go to your sentence, then explain your three sentences. If people haven’t bought in by then, refine your messages.
Your one-pager is not a sales document. It’s to get everyone to agree on what you’re doing. Sales happens in words, not pages.
OK, that’s three ideas. Can you come up with ten more ideas? Give me some good ones that worked for you below and I’ll update this post (or another one) with the best ones.