Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How many egos does it take to start a stampede?

Ego. Who knew there could be so much of it? My boss has chosen to leave the company. Respectfully I think this is both good for him and for us. He never could really drive the department in the way that it needed (and needs) to be in order to give the company the support it requires to continue its aggressive growth plan. Of course, the result of one leaving means another is to take its place.

My new boss comes from an environment where I suspect when he asked for people to jump - they tended to do just that. He has mentioned some of the organizations of his past, and I can quite imagine that they looked upon him as a miracle worker. And rightfully so. His delivery might be a little off the mark, but the content of his delivery is smack bang - on the money. Being progressive in thought is something that new start-ups think they are but generally can't afford to do, and older institutions know they are not and couldn't be bothered to really sort out.

The interesting thing that this fresh blood has brought in to the business is another ego. An ego that might be somewhat larger than many of those I work with. Worse yet - larger than my own. At the minute, this makes for an extremely tense working environment. Everyone that is in possession of a smidgen of seniority are stamping their hooves and neighing as much as possible. The 'egotites' are competing for the top spot. The one to be reckoned with.

Sure, I am one of them - an 'egotite'. Interestingly, I don't feel as compelled to 'show-off', and more to present myself in equality. Pacing him, I suppose like horses, trotting alongside one another. I don't feel the need to 'keep up', just to show that I'm already at the same speed he is, a pace I've always been at. As if by chance the bridal paths we were taking happened to join up and we're gallantly enjoying the outdoors at the pace we've always traveled.

Others seem to be trying to edge out in front, as if in a race. Bizarrely, it's as though they are panting and snorting too. Maybe because they've had to suddenly add to their previous pace and are slightly out of breath.

There are two things I find the most interesting of all, one is the way in which 'egotites' are choosing to react to this new Stallion, and two, the way in which we all appear to be on the same path - but no-one wants to admit to it.

The Stallion, the ΓΌber 'egotite', has come in with 'fresh' ideas - a clear new strategy. The problem is - it's not fresh. The difference may be, that he will be the one that finally achieves it... the idea, that elusive end goal. In my 4-or-so-years at the company, we've attempted the same piece of work no less than 3-times. The past attempt even matches what the new Stallion has recommended we put in place. The reason why stems from commitment, drive and follow-through. Each time we haven't been able to get enough of a noise out of it to start a stampede. Maybe he can.

The way in which the 'egotites' are reacting is pretty expected: My idea. My area of interest. My area of expertise. My hard-work. My control. Mine. The new Stallion appears to have been saddled up with some interesting headgear that prevents him from seeing any of this - or maybe he does (quite a bit more fiendish than I would care to suspect). The master of egotism merrily tramples over these feelings. And it's going 'noticed'.

In one respect he shouldn't fear to do so. As this previous ownership clearly has not worked. If he is to deliver it, then he is the one that must show complete ownership in it to generate that noise. In another, wounded egos are taking this bitterly, and this may weaken the support for the Stallion, leaving him to make way along the path - alone. At the minute, it's almost as if he has simply upset the whole herd. Horses that are so unsettled tend to bolt or break, neither are ideal when you're wanting to lead.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It's all about ME! ME! ME!

It has been sometime since I've entered anything on to this blog and yet every now and then I get a reminder. This reminder comes in two parts. 1. Something happens in my day to day life which reinforces some of the work already here - or stirs another insight. 2. Somebody drops me a line or buys a t-shirt in recognition of this work. Thank you to those that have contributed to point 2. Those in point 1 - come on... how difficult is this stuff?

I've been hard at work over the past 6-7 months on a really high profile project within the company I work for. It has been providing me with the stress and motivation I thrive on. Typically with all projects within my particular organisation, brakes have been put on, and I find myself in spin mode. An analogy - everyone is busily piecing together a Ferrari and yet somebody forgot to order the tyres. You can sit revving up the Engine all day - but where is the fun in that? You want to take it out for a test drive!

In this period of spin, I've found I've had to deal with a lot of wounded and misguided souls. I've had to call software vendors - salesmen - and keep them 'warm'. (You never know when those tyres are going to arrive!) I've spent a good 6-months educating the business on what this project is going to deliver, now all they can see is doom and gloom. ME - I have to be Mr Happy and assure them that it's all going to turn out just fine! Keep the communication going. Let them hear that engine purr one more time before returning to their Ford Mondeos.

There's a lesson in all of this. It's all about 'ME'. Not 'me' ME. But the royal 'we' ME. When you are working on something the issues you are dealing with are less to do with the factual problems - the fact that things are broken - but the emotional problems. If you fix those factual problems with no emotional buy-in then have you really fixed anything at all? Fix those factual problems through emotional validation (recognition) then only are you doing your job.

That's probably a bit woolly. So let's break this down. If the problem is 'the way we sell cars at the minute means we'll only ever sell 2 a month.' For the business to really perform, you need to sell hundreds of cars all of the time. How do you do that? How do you allow a business to really achieve that?

2-cars a month might be a lot of hard work. The people that are selling those cars might put their heart and soul in to selling those 2-cars. It might take the dedications of tens of people to get just 1-car off the showroom floor. Paperwork is a mile high. Customer service is your core principle and your staff do nothing less than their best to impress your patrons.

When you now bring on a project that says 'we're going to sell hundreds of cars, daily!' you are going to have a bigger problem than that you started with.

Deal with the 'ME' factor. Do something that not only works for the business objectives but also do something for 'ME'.

  • 'ME' - the project sponsor...
    Make him/her look good. Warrant his/her fat bonus cheque at the end of the financial year. Make him/her be the envy of his/her peers.
  • 'ME' - the project manager...
    Make him/her look good. Make them feel in control. All important and full of self-worth. Make him/her feel like they're delivering the best project they've ever had the privilege to manage.
  • 'ME' - the business analyst...
    Make him/her look good. (Are you spotting a trend here?) Make them feel like they've nailed all the requirements and are the king in front of the poor forgotten employee, a force with their superiors.
  • 'ME' - the business user...
    Make him/her look good. Make them feel that they're getting what they've asked for. That they are in control. And that their superiors are recognizing them for their unwaning commitment to improving the business.
  • 'ME' - the supplier...
    Make them look good. Make them feel like they are the only supplier suitable for the job. Make them feel like they meet every need. Make their sales people, superiors and/or colleagues think that there is no better client to work so closely with.

The solution - the bit that you are really paying all that money for is inextricably insignificant to delivering a project - the business benefit - without having all the 'ME's, their egos, their statures, their needs absolutely buffed, shined and ready to roll.

It's a selfish world out there. Start thinking about me. Not just the 'you' ME, the 'we' ME's too. Do you understand ME?