Build it and they (probably) won’t come

With apologies to the scriptwriter of the Field of Dreams. Whilst the film is an enjoyable watch, that well-known quote from the film is just not true. No matter how great ‘it’ is, people will probably not ‘come’. Just because it’s there. Just because you built ‘it’.

Designing and building the best solution is necessary, but it is not sufficient. Designing and building the right things will never be enough. In whatever context, we need to build the right solution and engage with others. We need to market and sell, too.

Working with clients and indeed in getting started with Laing Russell, we’ve been reminded of how important it is to market and sell. How important it is to work with clients to work through the design and development of the right strategy, business case, operating model and structure. enterprise architecture, governance model or implementation plan. And how critical it is to build support to make it happen at the same time.

We notice and have to remind ourselves of the need to invest time and resources in engaging with and communicating with others. Maybe it’s because we tend to have design focused, solution development brains that are motivated by and are arguably skilled at getting to the best answer to a particular set of complicated challenges. Maybe it’s because our preferences are to work things out or make sense of the world. For whatever reason, we know that if we are going to deliver the right outcome we have to sell our great solutions to relevant stakeholders. We have to identify and connect with them. We need build their confidence in our capability to deliver value. Or, in terms we first picked up on service quality study tours to Disney years ago, we have to ‘manage the show’.

In our experience, the first step is to give yourself and your teams the time and the tools  to manage the show. Value engagement with stakeholders as highly as getting the right answer. Clearly, provide direction, provide resources, coach and manage in a traditional sense to ensure everyone can deliver. Additionally, we recommend concentrating on three key areas:

  • get clear on the outcomes, in terms of what you want key stakeholders to think and feel alongside the classic sales analysis ideas of understanding their ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ and their relative significance in delivering the optimum solution for your organisation;
  • work super hard at simplicity, simplicity of message and method of communication and engagement;
  • keep learning, reflect on the outcomes from what you and your teams do, ask for the gift of feedback, keep developing your practice, keep testing yourself, keep trying new approaches.

We would value hearing what you have learnt in managing the show. What do you find works well? What tools do you use? How much time is enough?