Greg Dziemidowicz's Blog

software development related topics

Make It Happen

(This is a transcript of a speech I’ve delivered recently in my Toastmasters club.)

Two years ago a bus full of employes of 1 company department was heading for a team event. I was sitting on this bus and chatting with a person next to me.

“Hey, did you notice that in our department we are quite good at knowledge sharing?”
“You know, we show each other what are we working on, we practice together”
“How about other departments? We don’t share so much with them?”
“Yeah, let’s do something about it!”

and we did.

If you are working with other people, and sometimes you want to change things then please listen. I would like to share with you 3 simple techniques you can do, to introduce new ideas successfully.

The first technique is called “Brown bag”. It’s a informal meeting held over lunch , hence the name, as people are bringing their own lunches.

How can it help? In the office, people are often busy, have conflicting meetings, and generally don’t have time to brain storm and listen to your new ideas. That was certainly the case in my situation. The problem I & my friend wanted to tackle was inter department knowledge sharing. We were thinking about organising internal conference and that certainly meant involving bunch of people across different departments. By having our kick off session over lunch, we were able to gather bunch of otherwise busy people on very short notice. In the session, we shared and explained our idea and we used the second technique that I would to cover next..

“Ask for help” – it’s so much easier when you have people helping you make your idea happen. In our case, organising a conference was certainly not a 1 person or even 2 people job. So many things needed to be done: Securing sponsorship and approval of management, organising food and venue, finding speakers, creating posters and many other small jobs. By asking for help during brown bag we got a few volunteers that would help us take care of some of those areas. By asking for help we decreased our workload and we made our idea more likely be successful. One of the volunteers helped us with using the third and last technique I would like to mention today..

“Corporate angel” is high level execuctive who has an interest in your idea and supports it. We identified 1 of the company directors as our corporate angel, and luckily he liked our idea. He said his executive team was in fact thinking how they can engage employees more. By having him on board it was much easier to secure sponsorship or negotiate with middle management. We were planning on having our conference during business hours and we wanted to have as many people attending as possible. Some of the managers we talked to were concerned how this will affect their projects and were suggesting that we try something smaller instead. This was against our goal of reaching to people we don’t know across different departments and organising something extraordinary. By having support of the company director it was possible to get a green light and do it despite some concerns from our managers.

We used more techniques than “Brown bag”, “Ask for help” or “Corporate angel”. You can read about those and more in a book by Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Manns called “Fearless change, patterns for introducing new ideas”, I highly recommend this book.

In the end, we managed to organise our conference. It was a great success, with 2 tracks, around 10 speakers and almost 100 people attending. This all started by 2 people having a crazy idea in the bus.

In a big company, two normal workers, like you and me. So if we could do it, you can do it. Go, read the “Fearless change” book and made your ideas happen.