Do you remember the end of the last post in this series? I stated that "even chairmen have to seduce, cajole, and convince to get things done"? It is so true if you want to accomplish your goal of getting application delivery and/or virtualization discussions to the highest levels of your company. What I'm going to talk about and what you need to do is build a coalition.
By building a coalition you take your individual authority and you transform it into a collective authority. The people in your company that will try to knock you down and dismiss you will have a tougher time doing so if you have that collective authority. My initiatives within HP, I took the time to build the right coalition of management outside my normal "chain of command". The few dozen folks that I had put together changed a corporate direction. The fact that we were organized and we were speaking from conviction was a powerful message to the upper layers of managment and the C-level folks.
Another reason to build a coalition was that my endeavor, like most, didn't fit neatly into any of the existing organizational "boxes". The Citrix environments that were inside the company crossed many business unit boundaries and I need a broad cross-section to make sure that I got my Point of View and "Manifesto/proposal" into the right folks. I think the folks that I had brought into my little revolution shared the same revolutionary tendencies that I did no matter wherever their current organizational home was. My mentor took a look at the group that I had put together and he told me that it looked like an ink blot that had bled all over the formal org chart. He was right.
Another thing that my mentor told me was that I wasn't the only frustrated, visionary in the company. This was so true. I was quickly finding that I wasn't the only that "got it". So how did I find these other revolutionaries? I asked myself, "who was in my immediate vicinity that I had already been talking to about my ideas?" Here is what else I looked at:
- were there any staff groups or teams in the company that might be inclined toward my point of view?
- were there any cross-company initiatives that I wasn't aware of that I could tap into?
- who (across the company) might have a stake in the success of my endeavor?
- were there any internal newsgroups or e-mail distribution lists I could hijack?
Here are some other things that I did.
- Since Sharepoint sites were easy to put up, I started a Sharepoint site where I could post my "manifesto/proposal".
- I started to build an email list of some of the people that I thought would share my views.
- I created an online forum to where others could share their perspectives and help me to fine-tune my "manifesto/proposal".
- I identified some outside experts at our partner, Citrix, that could lend the cause credibility.
- I created opportunities to work together with the people of my network on some ad hoc projects that I would pull in.
Let me tell you this fact, coalitions get stronger when they focus on a common task. I looked for other involvement opportunities. I went to the yearly partner-only conference for Citrix partners, Citrix Summit, and spent quality time with my HP colleagues.
Take this one piece of advice. Stay underground for a while, at least initially. Use your network of people to build and strengthen your business case and identify opportunities for early wins. I saw first hand that as people within my network started to talk to others in their immediate vicinity, the "virus" of my point of view started to spread. Remember to not get impatient. If I were to map the curve of my endeavor, it was flat at first and then as the network of people I started to spread the virus we soared. By that time we started to get the attention of top managment. With that, don't be too quick to present your top management with a "go/no go" decision. I remember this thing my grandfather used to tell me when I was younger and we would go hunting on his farm; "it's easy to shoot one pheasant out of the sky, but it's harder to bring down a flock". I took that statement to heart, I kept on building my "flock" of people that were thinking the way I was.
As I close this section of the series, let me share with you this little tidbit of information that I learned. You, like I, have an advantage that top management often doesn't. Most of the people that report to them are forced to think like them and don't think about anything else then what they are told to think about. These type of people fight to stay alive in corporate life. People that I put together and you put together fight to win. Continue to build your coalition and inspire the other revolutionaries in the company. If you build strength from below, top management will ultimately come to you. I guarantee that.
In the next part in this series, I'm going to talk about finding the right person in your organization that can say yes and make it stick.