Successful Development Starts with Vision
© 2001 David Carrithers
In most business environments, new development has two faces Ė whether business, technology, product or relationships. There is the face of the person or management team bringing the new idea forward. There is the face of the existing people/areas that will be changed or influenced because of the new development. Normally, these faces have opposing points of view.
The development need will most likely come from a market situation, a new player in the market, an idea in a board meeting, etc. and Wham! the next thing a business knows the new development is underway. A need, an idea, a situation in one area of a business then becomes the "now you need to do this overnight" in another. Marketing impacts Operations. Sales impacts Transportation. Senior management impacts Finance and so on.
The early days of any new development concept are the most important. Why? Well in these seconds, moments and hours the new development concept spreads through a living organization like a virus. Popping up all over the place, like symptoms from the flu. In most instances, the whole picture is not provided, just the basic visceral shape of the new development, "Did you hear, Bob M. is pushing this crazy idea to..." or "I can't believe with everything on our plates, they now want us to..." It is like the white blood cells of new development destruction come out and attack the new idea, the new development concept.
Before there is even an official meeting the development effort is in the negative side of an organization's mindset. It is often an upill fight merely to gain enough attention so as to further define the concept and steps to development. These are the moments that will decide how easily will the development move forward or how the effort might be DOA before the second day.
A few ideas on turning a new development need into the 'favorite baby' of the whole organization:
A) Low Profile It! - Most new development needs or ideas are centered around an event or situation. This usually creates a sense of urgency, excitement, and causes a person or team to want to talk about the idea with everyone, even if the team is sworn to secrecy. 99% of the time the idea, development effort is leaked within 10 minutes of its creation. Human nature is about sharing and validation of an idea. So when possible, keep the development idea as low profile as possible. Don't share it at an open meeting; don't send an e-mail on it. When the development concept pops into your brain, write it down as a note to yourself. The fewer who know the better!
B) Selling The Idea - Sit down with your idea, write a list out of who will be impacted by the idea. Then list out how it will impact these key players, how you think they will perceive the idea. Then decide who will be the biggest supporters of the development efforts. First go to these people, one-on-one, and review the idea - in person, not via e-mail or a voice mail. Sit down and talk about the idea. Ask for their support as you move forward - but ask them to keep it to themselves at this time.
Next start with the list of 'potential problem' people. Do not hold a planned meeting, instead hold walk-in impromptu meetings, (ie. "Hey Bob 'NotAnotherThing' Smith, do you have a second..."). Go grab a soda and ask him/her a question around the development topic, DO NOT drop the idea on them fully formed.
Instead, get them to be part of the idea. "Bob, what do you think about the XYZ issue and what do you think we can do to help..." 9 times out of ten the person will most likely get to where you are thinking on their own, as long as they are asked questions that surround the need, etc. Over the period of the conversation drop in bits & pieces of your idea.
Again, not the full picture. Before the idea and/or development concept is fully realized, at that moment just before the realization, end the conversation. Look at your watch and say, "Oh hey sorry for taking so much of your time, keep thinking about this, great points. Letís regroup later to talk about it more..."
Then regroup no later than the next morning, with the person and a key supporter from the core group. Again, hold a non-official meeting to talk a little more about the idea, but start to flesh it out. And give the person the "ownership and the initiative" around the idea. "Hey Bob and I were talking yesterday, and he raised some interesting points..." And get Bob talking. Again, guide the conversation via questions, not bold statements, etc.
By the end of the meeting Bob will start to feel like the idea is his, and lo-and-behold when the moment comes to bring the idea forward with management and the team that will be impacted, Bob 'NotAnotherThing' Smith is actually openly supporting the idea.
C) Diffusion Of Power - So many times a new development opportunity creates in the mind of the 'idea owner' a sense of power. They receive support from upper management, maybe budgets, people, driving cross-functional teams, etc. This false sense of power and leadership can fall as quickly as Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian on the HMS Bounty. The next thing you know, you are afloat, alone with the development projected, turned development issue.
Early on give up ownership to the idea, the development approach. Divide up the responsibilities and give them to others to own and drive. Act more as a coach, a listening post, a recommendation maker and a train engineer and less like the 'friendly old dictator'.
Relinquishing power is a difficult act to do, especially on the ego. But it will help develop a sense that this new development need is owned by many and not the glory catching single driver. At every chance, give others and/or the group recognition to upper management. Remind people of their value and their responsibilities to the development effort.
D) Celebrate! - This is left out of most development activities. But by celebrating the launch, milestones along the way and the end launch you build excitement, team attitudes and positive feelings about the development effort. Also, sending quick hand written thank-you notes adds a sense of personal care and focus. All these acts drive the team to tie their identity to the actions and success of the development effort.
E) Senior Management Buy-In & Support - The sooner a development effort is given the open and outward support by senior management the better for the effort. This needs to go beyond the cursory memo to staff - like having the most senior member of management attend the launch meeting and talk about why the development effort is important to the whole business (even recognizing that this effort might conflict with existing priorities, but...) Then over the months of development ask the senior manager to attend a few update project meetings (yes, even to hear the nitty gritty details). Have the senior manager send thank you notes out as the development effort unfolds (the development leaders should write the letters for the senior management - giving more details and specifics, again reinforcing management's care and concern on the development efforts).
Development success has less to do with the technology being used, the budget that is available, etc. and more to do with the mindset and the personal intent, desire and "what's in-it-for-me" of each of those impacted by the development activity. Leaving these personal impact points out of the development process will create a ten ton millstone around the neck of the development owner, making it difficult for the development effort to take off or succeed.
BusinessHive provides consulting and coaching services for business individuals looking for honest and straightforward support & implementation of business solutions that improve profit performance and loyalty with employees, channels and customers. Contact David Carrithers, Chief Bee Keeper via e-mail for more information.