When dealing with software and organizations that work with software (among others I’m sure), one thing is always true. Things change.
It could be technologies, people, offices, or even the break room. Something is always going to change.
Some changes are better than others, but often the good ones are hard. Picking up a habit of exercising is a great change but my extra 12 pounds will tell you it’s not easy. If you work at a company that has more than one employee, changes get harder and harder. Not only do you have to drive yourself to make a change, you have to convince others to change with you.
More often than not, you will find at least one person who doesn’t agree with the change you want to make. For your sake I hope it’s not your boss. I’ve found that there are usually a few ways to approach gathering support and you have have to do each to a degree to get the backing you need. Hopefully you have realized by now that people are different (crazy right?).
What this means is that you need to prepare to defend your idea or make progress on it to various audiences. Stealing a note from a book a former boss recommended, Rebels at Work, here’s a few types of people you will run into:
- Old guard - They know the most about what has been done and the unspoken sides of the business
- Results focused - Their main focus is on getting things done
- Process enforcer - Know every step of every SOP and want everyone else to follow them
- Egomaniac - If it doesn’t match what they want, it doesn’t matter to them
Your first objective is to get your boss on your side. Without that, you will have a much harder time getting support in the company. If you can identify what your boss values, you should start with preparing that information. For an old guard, focus on understanding the business and how your change applies to it. Results focused is usually the easiest, show how it makes something Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. With a process enforcer you need to bring your documentation game for everything you want to do. Then we get to an egomaniac… the only success I’ve had is that you have to spend the time making them think the idea was theirs, but even then it’s very difficult.
With your boss on your side, you have a chance to rally others in the organization. As you expand your plans you need to remember to keep your audience(s) in mind, the same ideas you would use to get your boss on your side has to be applied to others in the organization. The hurdles you face in getting change into an organization (especially one averse to change) are:
- The personal energy to make a change
- The support of your peers
- The support of your supervisors
- The support of the rest of the organization
Depending on the scale of your change, some may not be needed. If you want to change a build tool, it might just be peers and supervisors. Just remember, the key is to always prepare information targeted to your audience for why the change is beneficial. The more support you can rally for the idea, the better off you will be when approaching someone like an egomaniac marketing executive who can’t relate to why spending 2 weeks now to pay down tech debt will result in happier more productive development later.