Copyright © 2018
This is it.
I've cracked the nut.
We can achieve massive gains if we just change this one thing.
Anyone who has done time in corporate America knows deploying anything is difficult, but deploying something that demands change - the removal and alteration of business processes - can be damn near impossible. The reasons for this are unique to every company and every business unit's place within the company, but the moral of the story is that, once you've done the math and have the platforms in place to deploy your work technically, you still have a lot of work ahead of you.
I'm sure we're all familiar with the agents in play here.
People want to keep and control their territory. This is natural, but it still sucks - for everybody. Some folks won't answer emails, others will run to an EVP if they sense a project may change the work over which they have dominion in any way. After being CC'd on one email, these folks couldn't possibly know all the benefits your project brings, but they seem to have totaled up costs.
Favorite Quote: "I don't think I've been trained on this."
There are many Eternal Emilies out there. She's been in one line of work for the last century...probably at the same company...likely at the same desk. Emily operates according to her job description, and she's the reason your company has process maps.
She doesn't do "outside the box". She doesn't even like to get to close to the corners.
This guy has a problem: He knows your idea is sound, has seen the proof, and gets the concept from back to front...but it really should have been his boss's idea. When the question "Why weren't we doing this before?" comes up, he will chime in with a response. If your work is implemented and changes the way his unit works, that's a prestige problem for his organization, and political problem for you. The difference between him and the people in the fiefdom is that he doesn't even stand to benefit by implementing your work, making him much harder to win over and - likely - a more vocal opponent.
The world has enough Fiefdoms, Emilies, and Pawns out there to bring nearly any change to a grinding halt. You are at an additional disadvantage: Your ideas are not easy to understand, and they usually require either math, programming, or both to implement. In the face of a scary, mathy idea, these folks can take advantage of institutional momentum to scare others into stillness, which, incidentally, is the easiest state to be in.
Time to inject some good news: Even if you're proposing an extremely disruptive solution, because the company as a whole stands to gain from your work, you have a few levers to pull with each of these characters.
To The Fiefdom's Leaders:
Think about your own metrics. If your solutions falls under their scope in some way, they stand to save man-hours and/or expense. However, this message is not enough: The only way to drive this home is to make it tangible. If you want people to accept and implement your solutions, you must engage with the vassals of the world on their project pipelines. You need to point to the resources that would be freed up by your work and point, on their ridiculous Gantt charts, to what they will gain in terms of deliverables and efficiency.
This level of engagement is difficult, and getting people to sit down at the table is a skill you develop only with repeated effort, but this is how you get the vassal to open the city gates.
To Eternal Emily:
It's important to remember that she is scared for a couple of reasons: 1) She doesn't want to change anything about the way she does her work and 2) She is terrified of being made obsolete. In her mind, "simplification" is a dirty word, and if anything is getting "streamlined", she's the rough spot that's going to be smoothed. What's worse, there are times when she is right.
How can we get her aboard? Engage with her exactly when it feels most counterintuitive: Right in the beginning. Of course, she isn't your primary point of engagement within her business unit - that is somewhere closer to the top, but, by bringing her into the discussion before deployment, you're making her feel involved in the process. If she feels a little ownership and gets exposure to your entire plan, she will be less scared. Critically, she will feel like this is part of her work, implicitly broadening her scope, making her feel less trapped. Getting her buy-in early on may even lead to some improvements before roll-out.
To The Pawn:
Let's be honest, sometimes the best way through is around. Mention that the VP's have spoken and cooperation is afoot at senior levels. He likes to follow, and he loves to be seen following. If possible, have him included on communications that show someone in his chain of command wants this to happen.
At the end of the day, you need to create a plausible reason for him to feel like a partial owner of your success. It may make his people more efficient. If it's more taxing, make sure you publicly ask his senior if the pawn's staff is properly resourced for implementation. No one hates another direct report. The key point is this: If he feels that cooperation is mirroring his boss's reaction to your program, you'll win.
I've distilled the characters above from years of pithy and prescient observations made by people far more politically savvy than myself. And, while every difficult character doesn't fall neatly into these molds, I've found them to be useful archetypes that have helped me slide my own projects through cracks in corporate political structures that should have been far too narrow.
I offer them to my fellow analytical leaders: Go forth, win friends, influence people, and execute projects!