All organizations operate according to a certain level of “group think“. That's not necessarily a bad thing because we all want employees focused on the same goals and adhering to similar work styles. As much as we don't want to admit to any amount of “Orwellianism” in our companies, while all of our employees at my company are equal, some are more equal than others. Those who are not equal are who we call ‘the executives.’
I do not mean to suggest that there is any unfairness. On the contrary, my company is a very democratic place. Irrespective of where ideas come from, they are valued and evaluated based on merit, not on the pay grade of the person who suggested them. And it is because I work in such an egalitarian place that I have a shot at getting my workflow project approved. I’ve done my due diligence, a ton of research, and already started to look at some vendors. My project proposal will, I believe, be rewarded with a green light to move forward.
We all know, however, that there can be a lot of yellow and red lights after receiving the initial approval. Issues are bound to arise, we may need more resources or encounter unforeseen hurdles; any number of potential challenges may rear their ugly heads. To help pave the way, I need an executive who will champion our cause and intervene when needed. Perhaps even knock down doors when my voice is not being heard. Executive buy-in and support is critical to my workflow project being successful.
I have learned that it is critical to find one or two executives who see the merit in my project and recognize the long term benefits. I also understand that they don’t need to be workflow experts; they don’t even need to know me all that well. What is most important is to align with the execs who have a vision for our company and who value innovation.
The first thing I had to do was to realize that although my business card says, "Director of IT", I'm also a salesman— and I have to evangelize my plan in order to get executive backing. So, I organized my plan into the requisite sales tools: a PowerPoint that highlights my goals and plans for achieving them, a spreadsheet that shows cost savings, and flowcharts that show before and after scenarios. I'm trying to paint a picture of what our organization will look like after the workflows are implemented. But I am also demonstrating that our entire organization could be different. And not just different — better!
There are many execs here who are enlightened and progressive and ultimately champion projects that will bring about change. At the same time, these are busy people with lots of demands on them, so if I waste their time, I may not get a second shot to plead my case.
In a way, I am proposing a partnership. Clearly I will have to do all the work. But knowing that I will have an executive champion to see this workflow implementation project all the way through is invaluable.
I am taking these messages to the executives I think can support and advocate for my workflow project:
- Value: Implementing workflows will result in an improved and more efficient way of handling our business processes. I know it because I live in a world consisting of both written and ad hoc ways of doing our ‘business’. I recognize that having workflow will provide a framework for improving our decision-making, managing our assets, and providing the collaboration we need to become even more successful. Workflow will even help us anticipate when and where we can expect to see shifts in our business so we can plan accordingly. This provides insights (I call it value) across the entire organization — and I can make a very profound case for how we can do this.
- Savings: With greater efficiency comes a reduction in resources we have to apply. Workflow will enable us to include documents needed for validation and/or approval which means less time spent retrieving assets (later) to make decisions. We can target stakeholders more closely and with greater accuracy, eliminating wasted time and reducing roadblocks. The workflow solution I'm evaluating even integrates with social media so I can incorporate different types of communication to ‘meet’ stakeholders however and wherever they operate.
- Growth: Ultimately, all companies want whatever is implemented to be sustainable. Certainly my executive champion will want that to be the case. (This is where I have already felt enthusiasm among the C-level execs with whom I have been talking.) They have the foresight to see how an investments made now can pay off in the future. In their minds, standardizing operations and creating a solid foundation on which to build for future growth trumps the (sometimes cultural) changes that may need to be made to get us there.
With my proof-points in hand, I have already set up meetings and will start to do my internal "road show". My hope is to identify one or two executives who have the vision and political capital to help us move forward, and act as my consigliere throughout the course of the project.