In my work to help companies move faster on strategic opportunities, I hear stories like the following too often:
“My team is excited about growing our business, but it’s soooooo slow getting anything done around here.”
We sold a deal last week to a customer who was really—I mean REALLY—excited about the value we could create for him. But when we got back to the office, to put the pieces in place to deliver what we had promised, we ran into road block after road block. Approval processes, other priorities, and ‘business as usual’ slowed us down to the point that we eventually had to call the customer back and say we couldn’t meet her deadline.
“We had worked so hard to sell the customer on the idea, but because we couldn’t deliver fast enough, a competitor stepped in at the last minute and won the deal.”
Do you sometimes feel like you are walking through Jello to get work done? Like the rest of your organization just “doesn’t get it” when it comes to delivering value to customers?
No matter how bureaucratic, inept or slow the rest of your organization is, here are five things you can do to speed up your organization to get things done faster, win more business and make change happen:
1. Enlist believers:
Everyone wants to belong to something great, and people love creating new things.
Paint a picture of where you want to go—whether its starting up a new product or service line, entering a new market, or implementing a new operational procedure—and start talking it up with those in a position to help.
Notice who gets excited about your intent and immediately starts contributing ideas to make it successful. These are the enthusiastic, creative believers you want on your team. Enlist them. Simply say “This is going to be hard, but worth it. Will you help me make it happen?” You may be surprised at the avalanche of support you gain.
2. Build a virtual team, before you need one.
Once you’ve enlisted a few believers, you’ve got the beginnings of a virtual team. Now’s the time to build the comradery that will lead to commitment and speed.
Your virtual “team” may be spread across disparate time zones, divisions and functional areas. They may even speak different languages. No matter how far-flung your believers are in the organization, you can instill a sense of community and belonging.
Provide a steady stream of updates about your progress. Something as simple as “we talked to a customer in Chicago today, and they loved our concept!” can provide the juice to keep the conversation going (“What did they like most? When will they be willing to try it?”).
Find reasons to get believers talking to each other. Talk in vivid terms about what it will feel like when you achieve your goal. You’ll soon find that the “virtual team” takes on a life of its own, and that you have an army of believers throughout the organization to help you reach your goal.
3. Write different rules.
Corporate rules are written for typical, everyday scenarios. Approval levels, priorities, and policies designed for the average situation get in the way of accomplishing anything truly miraculous.
You know that you’ll need different rules to accomplish your goals, so negotiate those rules before you need them.
Here’s how you might ask: “Mr./Ms. Decision Maker, we are setting out to penetrate a new market that could be a huge growth engine for our company, but to win the first few deals, we need to be lightning-fast delivering solutions to our customers. In the past, I’ve seen our approval process add weeks to delivery timelines, so I’m asking you now, before I close this deal, if we can agree on a 24-hour approval timeline. Would that be okay with you?”
4. Show results early.
Nothing speaks like results. Get a few closed-deals under your belt and internal resources—the ones who you need on your side—will suddenly start listening to you, or even lining up to help you. Communicate every positive step on your journey loudly and often. A positive customer comment; the initiation of a proof of concept trial; the first dollar of revenue—all these are hard evidence that your cause is worth investing in.
5. Give everyone credit.
Most important, when you start making progress, spread credit for your accomplishments far and wide. Let the road blockers, naysayers and slow pokes have a share of the credit, and you may just find that they are moving faster next time around.
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