"Break some glass. Break lots of it."
The rest of the organization? They wanted to wait and wait and wait. The organization was big and risk-intolerant. So, we were told to just forget about getting buy-in and slam through the walls. Break some glass.
OK. They said that is one of the reasons they acquired us. They liked the the pace at which we moved, so we launched. And we broke some glass alright. But all that broken glass left some sharp edges. People fell on it and got cut up. There was blood. People were understandably peeved. Can you blame them?
We followed the direction we were given and the reality is that we believed it was the right time to bring the product to market as well. We just misjudged how dysfunctional the organization was and were not equipped to see clearly that we needed to take a little more time to fray people's nerves. So we ignored them.
That was wrong. It cost us a few million dollars in lost sales and the sales team was not ready to sell the product.
Any large group of people working together creates a dynamic environment with multiple goals and visions -- that often contradict. GMs and VPs often have different agendas and their teams follow their lead. That leads to drama and worry and distrust. Lots of distrust.
And no one ever got promoted for failure. So, people go slow and protect what they control. They are skeptical of changes to what they know. When that mindset is left uncorrected -- or worse institutionalized -- that drama leads to workplace dysfunction.
Guess how much it costs us every year? $359 billion in paid hours, according to one study. That's the total price of the 2.8 hours per week U.S. employees spend dealing with workplace conflict.
If you have ever worked on anything substantial at a meaningful company you know that other groups will want to go really slow when you need to go really fast. So, you go "under the radar." You break some glass. But doing so only creates more resistance and that becomes a real hindrance to progress. In fact, the same study found that nearly 10 percent of workers blamed workplace conflict for project failure. (I bet that number is actually a lot higher.)
The remedy is simple but important: transparency. I find that open, honest communication is the only way to work. Sometimes it means having tough talks about what is not working and why. Yes, it can be rough. But the outcome is always worth it.
Whether you are a leader by title or action, you can bring this kind of positive change into your organization. Resist the urge to move forward without ruffling feathers. Instead, dig into the hard conversations. Ruffle the feathers early rather than later.
Here are four questions to prompt meaningful collaboration:
1. Does everyone understand the vision?
You have a vision for the launch and how it will deliver customer value. But for it to pay off, you have to make it clear to everyone -- from engineering to sales. Check in to make sure all teams understand the "why" behind the product launch.
2. What are your concerns?
Every launch brings its own set of issues -- get yours out in the open. Maybe your support team has some customer feedback that should be considered. Listen carefully to the potential pitfalls, and then work together on specific actions to avoid them.
3. Is everyone clear on what needs to happen?
Plans can quickly fall apart when assigned tasks get lost, ignored, or misunderstood. Everyone should understand how their work fits into the larger plan. This is where your roadmap becomes invaluable. Share yours so everyone can clearly see what work needs to get done and how they are contributing.
4. What can we do better next time?
No plan is perfect and our product launch definitely was not. But we can always push to make the next one better than the last. After you get it out the door, take a moment with the teams to reflect. Ask for honest feedback and gather suggestions for the future.
Sure, it may seem easier (and quicker) to go "under the radar." No red tape, right? The problem is that this secretive approach leads to long-term consequences. Simmering mistrust will eventually bubble over. And that leads to a breakdown in communication.
Share your vision and the details of the plan. Represent each team's concerns fairly and explain what can be mitigated and what can not. Assess the risk from their perspective. After all, products cannot succeed over the long-term without every group in a company doing its part to create a terrific product experience.