Large organizations—unlike their smaller counterparts—are webs of many small organizations: interdependent and interconnected through a thread consisting of the umbrella brand, people, policies, processes, and everything in between. Navigating—or in simplistic terms getting things done—in large organizations needs a lot of patience, interpersonal skills, determination, organizational knowledge (who-does-what), and a positive attitude. Given my experience in large corporations, I jotted down some of the things I feel are helping me move the needle, however small the degree is.
1. PRIORITY ASYMMETRY
Something that’s really important for you—something that you need to get done maybe to even keep your job safe—may NOT be the most important thing for the person you are seeking help from. In a large system, where you can’t move an inch without the help of others—be it internal functions, vendors or clients—everybody has their own priorities; more often than not, these priorities will not match yours. You should keep this in mind or will end up setting wrong expectations for yourself.
2. HIGH PRIORITY, NOT ALWAYS
Are you someone who marks all—OK, most—mails “High Priority”? For whom are they high priority—that’s the big question. Obviously for you, the sender, but mostly not—or almost never—for the recipient. By adding an HP flag to all your mails, you end up reducing their value; recipients who know you as a serial offender will invariably end up ignoring your mails. It’s a classic case of you losing trust-currency.
3. WORK FROM MULTIPLE SIDES
In large organizations, if you are trying to get things moving, you have to work with multiple stakeholders. And a unidirectional approach won’t help you much. If you have something that has gone to A for approval, and B is the actual person who can ‘fix’ things for you, even before A is done with the approval, strike a conversation with B. Maybe get B to start the work. Such tactical moves get things going faster. (But don’t overdo this and complicate things for yourself).
4. EGO—EVERYBODY HAS THAT
Everybody comes with their baggage of egos. And irrespective of levels, don’t prick the ego bubble. You need to keep a lot of people happy—across levels—to make things happen. And in large organizations, people keep moving teams. So, tomorrow you may end up seeking help from someone you pestered and pissed off today. Forget levels—people get promoted, some faster than others. Build cordial relationships with as many people as you can.
5. PROCESSES, FOR A REASON
In large organizations, everything follows a process—even getting a new chair has to follow a process. You are a small fish in the ocean, and you can’t really strip the organization of these processes. They are there for a reason. Realize this. Processes and the people running them may look like bottlenecks to you, but they are just doing what they are supposed to. Don’t blame them. That’d only make your ask fulfilled slower. Also, these people aren’t trying to move things slower—they too are juggling priorities.
6. 1-1 MEETINGS HELP
While you try to find your way through the maze consisting of people and processes, talk to people in the chain 1-1. No, not calling up and telling them that it’s “urgent” or “high priority” and running over them with your ego juggernaut, but a cordial call seeking help from within the process-framework. No throwing your weight around—that can only be counter-productive.
7. DISCOVER & CONNECT
Discover people and connect. Use common sense to drill through org charts—and then, call up and identify people who can help, directly and indirectly. DLs are a good way to find people and connect. Also, identify someone around who can help you find POCs for every problem you have. Once you connect, build a rapport and add him/her to your address book. You will mostly need this contact later. At the end of the day, however large the organization is, it’s the people who can make things happen for you.
Navigating a large enterprise is about understanding and keeping these things in mind. It’s about being realistic about things and the pace at which things move.
Do you think I missed something? Feel free to add as comment or ping me on twitter @nikhilnarayanan