Fledgling recovery or not, this is still a tough job market. The troubles are lingering a lot longer than they did after the dot-com bust, and a lot of us remain stuck in jobs we don't exactly love, at employers that aren't exactly paragons of progressive technology culture. So, how do you keep your sanity in a company that's mired in - or even clings to - mediocrity?
Trapped in Time
Some companies get stuck in the period where they were most successful and felt good about themselves. You know people like that, right? They were awesome in the 80s and still sport that Eric Estrada CHiPs hairdo. Like them, companies get stuck in the policies and procedures that made them a success, and don't keep up with the trends that could make them even more successful here and now.
Of course, you can't just waltz in and tell people that they're doing it all wrong. First, you have to do your homework. You have to identify inefficient practices and be assured that change would make a huge difference. People like to be right and like to come to that rightness on their own terms. To that end, you have to adopt the Socratic method to employ a little neuro-linguistic programming.
Ask earnest questions in a way so that the logical answer is to change. For example, if you want to try an iterative approach over the current waterfall method of software development, you might e-mail a link to an article that clearly indicates the superiority and efficiency of an iterative model. Introduce it by saying something like "I came across this and thought it was pretty interesting. I wonder if we could do something like this here?"
Once you've planted that seed, care for it Ask questions along the line of "would this work here?" This will engage the imagination of future allies, and daydreaming of this type can be very powerful.
Once you've planted your seedlings you need to make it rain. Sooner or later, a project will come along that's a perfect candidate for your idea. Pitch trying out the process you've been "wondering" about in e-mails and meetings. Say you'd like to see, in a real world context, if the promising technique could be employed within the company. I've even upped the ante by promising that if the experiment fails, I'd be willing to work long extra hours to make it right. This reduces the stakes for the risk averse. And odds are that if you're in this type of situation in the first place, you're dealing with people who are risk averse.
Once your hopes come to fruition, make sure you don't make mistakes that will result in failure. Go over your plan multiple times to make sure it's water tight and that you've considered as many contingencies as you can. Then, be focused in the execution.
At this point, you've succeeded in implementing you project plan. Review the results with your colleagues. What worked? What didn't? What could be better? Could this technique work in a larger project? Could the process be employed in other areas of the company? Again, you're asking leading questions so that people can arrive at destination Right Answer.
Once you get a foot in the door, you can keep doing this over and over, widening your circle of influence as you string together your successes. All transformations start with an idea and hope that things can be better. Good luck corporforming. Let us know how you do in the comments below.
by Chad Broadus