My first experience as a manager was leading a team in striving to win a large contract from UPS. We worked around the clock in preparing a knock your socks off proposal complete with diagrams, graphs, and complicated ROI analysis that showed a 25 to 1 return.
I insisted we use some new proposal process and graphic creation tools that I had introduced into the organization. With the aid of the new technology and process, we created a proposal masterpiece. The quality and detail was much better and we created it in half the time. For this reason, our team was optimistic that we’d win the UPS deal (worth $15 million dollars). So optimistic, we were calculating how to spend our bonuses.
The next morning I got a call from our intern asking me if I was sure I wanted to overnight the proposal to UPS. I was irate, “Yes, ship the damn thing! You should have shipped it last night! We are going to miss the deadline!”
“Well,” she said, “I hope you’re not upset with me but I didn’t want to overnight a proposal to UPS using Fed Ex as the delivery service. Your proposal process automatically ships our proposals via Fed Ex.”
My head start spinning as I realized my mistake. It seems that I had not thought through all of the use cases before implementing the new technology driven process. Thank God this unpaid intern had caught my mistake before it was too late. She saved the company from losing a major deal and saved my job.
The next day as I was typing out an email I noticed that every time I hit the ‘U’ key it autocorrected to “Lose $15m by not shipping with UPS”. The team programmed my keyboard for future reference. It is a valuable lesson that I still remember today.
Fighting for Your Ideas
I understand how difficult it can be to introduce new ideas to an organization especially when the ideas are labeled ‘social’. Your boss doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter and he’s certainly not going to allow employees to waste time fraternizing on a new solution that the company is asked to spend money on.
But you know it will work. So why don’t you fight?
Are you afraid your boss will embarrass you? Are you afraid you’ll screw up and the company will fire you?
I still have that fear to this day. But my fear of being average is even stronger. I don’t want to be another cog in a factory. And neither should you.
The Art of Introducing Enterprise 2.0 Solutions
First of all know that you are not alone. There are many successful Enterprise 2.0 implementations. Take the time to review the examples that are similar to your industry. Connect with your peer group and ask for their experiences. Then do the following:
#1 Find out if introducing an Enterprise 2.0 solution will align with a departmental or corporate initiative. If it does you’re half way home. If not you have an up hill battle; but with hard work you will convince the decision makers. Learn the language of your executives and learn what keeps them up at night.
#2 Map out the political landscape inside your organization
Do you have a lot of political capital or are you seen as a loose cannon? If the latter then you need to make your idea everyone’s idea. No really. You need to get key influencers involved in your plan to make it ‘our plan’. This does two things. First, it insulates you from personal attack, second, it shows a united front to executive management.
#3 Why do you need an Enterprise 2.0 solution?
Every organization is different so I can’t help you out here with specifics. But do the internal research necessary to uncover the issues that Enterprise 2.0 addresses. I do internal surveys. I ask provocative questions that demonstrate key weaknesses that an Enterprise 2.0 organization addresses. Then I present the results as part of a story.
Study the pros and cons, lessons and pitfalls. Why are these companies succeeding? What are the benefits?
Now that you have an idea of how others have benefited from Enterprise 2.0 it’s time for you to craft your story. You can’t just write down a few bullet points you need a story that will resonate with decision makers.
#5 Develop a presentation story arch. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a story is worth a thousand assurances. Remember to follow this story arc guide:
For ideas on how to present a story, I suggest the “Back of the Napkin” by Dan Roam. You want to create a story that will appeal to both emotions and logic.
#6 Practice, Practice and Practice Your Presentation
Introducing a game changing technology can literally change your career. I have seen some really bad presentations for worthwhile projects that ended up dead on arrival. I’ve also seen some incredibly stupid presentations receive internal funding because the pitch was remarkable. Lesson learned: Be remarkable.
Use a lot of images and unique charts to describe your vision. Even if the decision makers don’t see it your way they’ll see the remarkable you. You’ll be given other opportunities in the future.
#7 Position yourself and your team as the Enterprise 2.0 champions
Maintain control of the pro
This is your chance to shine. Adoption of the technology is important here so read Oscar Berg’s article on Adoption strategies to maximize your early success. Measure the results and report to management. You need to stay visible but promote your team as the reason for the project’s success.
Seize your opportunity
This is a unique moment in time. This is an opportunity to make an impact on your company and career. You know more than your executive team does about connecting to customers and uncovering hidden opportunities. You owe it to the company and yourself to introduce these concepts in a compelling and interesting way.
The difficult part, the part that gets your idea approved, is understanding how to present an enterprise solution in an authentic and remarkable way.
You might be afraid, but being ordinary is worse.
(Cross-posted @ Seek Omega )