Getting stuff done in a big company can be complicated. Sometimes it can feel impossible to make real change even if everyone agrees that they hate the current situation. MR CORPO prescribes a 9 step process that will guarantee success for problems big and small. The secret is to create visual proposition to break through the corporate white noise and get people's attention. Plus MR CORPO explains how the Republican Party went wrong with their repeal and replace approach to Obamacare. (If only Paul Ryan would listen to this episode he might actually start to get sh*t done).
How to Get Sh*t Done (in a Big Company)
JUSTIN: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Mr. Corpo podcast. Today's episode, we are going to tackle a huge topic, a gigantic topic. We are going to talk about how to fix a big problem at work. We could also call this -- and to be honest, I'm not sure on the title -- but we could also call this How To Be A Hero, or we could call this episode How To Get Shit Done In A Big Company.
No matter where you work, no matter what you do, there is always something that is a huge waste of time, and everyone knows it. And yet, no one ever steps up to fix it or change it. It might be a file. It might be a report. It might be a meeting. It might be data entry. The point is, it is something that you and everyone around you would like to see changed.
Well, I'm here to help. Let's get to work.
JUSTIN: To fix any issue at a big company, I want to prescribe a nine step process. Now I know you hate to hear nine steps. You wish there was only three. But the thing is, it's a big problem. And working big problems at a big company, there's a certain process you should follow. And if you follow these nine steps, I promise you, I absolutely promise you, money back guarantee, you will fix this huge hairball, this thing that you hate, it will be solved, if you do what I tell you.
Now, the nine steps are as follows. Number one, identify the issue. Number two, identify the specific problem. Number three, visually represent this specific problem. Number four, prescribe a very specific, small solution. Number five, shop it around. Number six, visually represent the specific solution. Number seven, take it to your boss. Number eight, explain the change clearly. And number nine, implement it.
Now, there's no way you're gonna remember all nine of those. And there's way more details I wanna go into. So let's take it one step at a time. I promise you -- stick with me. This is going to change your life forever. Okay, let's break it down.
Number one: identify the issue. Everyone hates this meeting. Everyone hates this report. This report takes too long. This is the easy part. Identifying the issue is just a broad stroke. It's just saying, everybody hates this report. That's all you have to do. Just identify the thing everyone hates. Just listen around your cubes for a couple minutes, you'll know. You're doing the work, you'll know what everyone hates. That's the first thing to do.
Step two, you need to identify the specific problem. Now, this is different from number one because it is specific. In number one, you simply said you don't like this report, or "I think this meeting is a waste of time." But you didn't identify the specific problem. What are you trying to solve. This formate requires too many extra steps. This report takes three hours to fill out. That's the specific problem. The specific problem is, it takes three hours to fill out. The specific problem is, the format leads to wasted time. You need to zero in on the very specific problem, because otherwise you're just complaining.
Alright, you identified the issue, you identified the specific problem inside that issue. Time for step three: visually represent the specific problem. Everyone already knows about the issue. Everyone hates that form. It takes too long. Or, the formatting is wrong. You can all agree on that. The problem is that most people, 99 percent of people, stop right there. You need to break through all the white noise of Corpo complaining, and you need to get people's attention. And you know what they say? A picture is worth a thousand words. So when it comes to step three, the point is to be able to visually represent the specific problem in a way that makes everyone immediately see, "Woah. This is a fucking problem. We need to fix it." You need to get everyone's attention.
Now, what form this takes is up to you. But the point is, 05:00 it has to break through. So let me give you a couple examples. Often times you're gonna be doing a lot of work digitally. And so no one can see all the different forms you have to fill out. No one can see that it's so many different pages that you have to fill out. So one of the easy things I like to do is, print out every single form that you fill out during this process. Sometimes it's gonna stack up to 30 pages. Sometimes it's gonna be 100 pages, cause you look at 100 different screens. My point is, you've gotta break through. No one sees it. A computer -- they can't see what the files are. If you print it out and drop a stack of papers on someone's desk, all of a sudden, you've taken what is this imaginary problem, and made it physical. So print it out. That's the first example.
The second example I want to give you about visually representing the problem: represent it in a chart. If you've spent three hours to fill out a form, make a chart that shows 30 percent of your day was spent on this form. If you just say three hours, your boss may brush it off. But if you say 30 percent of your day is spent on this, it may help them understand that this isn't where they want you spending your time. So just changing the frame of reference. Saying, "this takes a long time" doesn't mean anything. Saying, "this takes two hours" doesn't mean anything. Saying you're spending 50 percent of every day on this form? That will get people's attention. And then represent it visually. Make them look at it. See the black and white. This will help you break through.
Now, here's a third example. Maybe the inputs for a form are really complicated. Make a flow chart to visually represent how many different people, how many different inputs, how many different sources of information you have to go get in order to fill out this form. That's the point. No one's gonna understand it if you say it's complicated. But if you can represent it in a flow chart that looks super, super complicated, all of a sudden, people can easily look at it and just go, yeah, that doesn't seem right.
Alright, step four. Prescribe a very specific solution. This is not the time to try and throw the baby out with the bathwater. I usually don't like to try and change everything at once. And throwing out a complicated system to replace it with your complicated system, that's not a solution. That would just be change for change sake.
Now, think about the Republican Party and Obamacare. They tried to repeal and replace -- and look how that went for them. It's really, really hard to build something from the ground up. Now, instead, think about if the Republicans had said, "You know what? I think we have five specific ideas that we want to improve the existing system. Here are the five specific improvements we're gonna make, and this is why they're important." They would have gotten all those approved, easily. So my point is, start small. Think of what specific -- super specific, super small -- thing that you want to change in order to improve the situation.
Now, don't focus on the big stuff. I'm talking about the smallest, smallest thing. Even if this means that you're only going to cut down the three hour process to two hours and 45 minutes. You should do it. Saving those 15 minutes is a start. People will appreciate it. They will notice it. And likely, that 15 minutes that you save will lead to an additional 15, and an additional 15, and eventually maybe you get it down to two hours and then an hour. Or, you get rid of the form altogether. But start small, and be specific.
Let's go to step five: shop it around. If you try and go directly to your boss, you're going to fail. Before going to your boss, you need to get feedback from your co-workers. Not just your team, but actually all the teams and all the people who touched this issue in any way whatsoever. Now, it's tempting. I get it. It's tempting to only get input from your own team, because likely, they're gonna agree with you. But the secret to success, the secret to getting big change in a big company, is to get everyone to agree with your idea from the ground-up.
Even if your idea requires extra work from someone else, you need to discuss it with them. Now, you may think there's no way someone's gonna voluntarily sign up for more work. But actually, if you follow these steps, I think they will. And you'll be quite surprised. Here's what you need to do. When you meet with each person, you explain the issue. You identify the specific problem. You show them visually, so that they can really, really get it. And then you tell them your specific idea for the solution. Maybe they have a better idea. Don't be afraid of rejection. If you've taken the time to explain the why, no one is gonna be mad at you. People are only gonna want to help you. They may not agree with everything you say, but they're gonna understand what you're trying to do, and they're gonna offer different solutions. 10:12 They're not just gonna be a roadblock, I promise.
Now, this is perhaps the most important step, and it's usually the one that people skip: you need to build momentum. You want consensus, you want support. You want your boss to feel that this is a big issue, not just a "you" issue. Getting other people's support is critical. Don't skip this step.
Alright, step six: once you land on your solution, once you've built the consensus, take the time to represent it visually. The reason you want to do this is so that your solution can stand in contrast to the problem. If your complicated flow chart becomes a simplified flow chart, everyone can see that your idea's a good one, without too much explanation. It seems like an extra step, and like I said, no one's gonna do this visual thing, but I promise you, it's gonna make it easy for everyone to understand. No one wants to listen to your long, complicated explanation. But they do understand looking at a complicated, messy piece of paper, and then a clean piece of paper. Or, they do understand looking at a stack of 50 sheets of paper, or looking at a stack of ten sheets of paper, and saying, ten is better than 50, okay? So use the visual paradigm to break through the corporate noise.
Step seven. Step seven is the "take the idea to your boss." Now remember, often times the boss will have no idea what the actual issue is. The boss doesn't have to fill out the form. That's the great thing about being a boss, you don't have to do any work. But the problem with that is, the boss doesn't realize that this is a problem. Now, trust me. I've been a boss for a long time, and I have been in corporate America, what? 17 years. I can tell you, I stopped filling out forms and putting data into different systems probably 11 years ago. I haven't had to get my hands dirty with a system or a form in 11 years, so trust me, I have no idea what's going on on the ground. So that's why it's good for the people to bubble up ideas and bring them to the boss.
Now, because the boss doesn't know what the problem is, this is why it was important for you to represent it visually, because now it's easy for the boss to see the problem, and to see your solution. Be sure to mention that you've spoken to X, Y, and Z, and everyone agrees with you. This makes it easier for the boss to say yes. They know other people have already agreed. You've already built momentum. And if they want to say no to you, guess what? Now they're not just saying no to you, they're saying no to all those other people too, and nobody wants to do that. Bosses want to be popular. So if you line up more people on your side of the ledger, you're more likely to get a yes.
Now, if your solution required further approval from your boss's boss, it's okay. You've done the work. You've clearly articulated the problem and the solution. And what's more, you've given your boss a gift. You've given your boss a chance to be a hero. To actually do something. They'll appreciate you for this. And you'll look good to them. Congratulations. You've solved the big issue.
But wait! There's more. There's still two steps left, so don't screw it up now. Step eight: you need to clearly communicate to everyone about what is going to change. And when it is going to change. And you need to make sure that person X, Y, and Z have all approved this change. Now, this is critical. Before you send out the email gloating about your boss's approval, you need to send your announcement email to the key people, separately, individually, one-on-one, to make sure they still agree and they like your email that you're gonna send out to their teams, or to people that they work with.
The worst thing that can happen is if you rush to send out your email, all high and mighty, saying you got approval from the boss, here's what's gonna change, and you changed everything, and then someone replies to your email and points out something you forgot. Or someone replies to the email and says, "I never heard about this. I can't agree to this. This doesn't seem right." That will take all the air out of your balloon, and you will look like a fool. So do not do that. Write the email, then send it individually as a draft to the key people. And you know who the key people are. You know who are the people that are gonna hit reply all and take pleasure in knocking you down. Send them that email and say, "Hey, I know we already talked about this. The boss approved this. I was gonna send this out to all the team. Does this look good to you? Do you have any feedback?" 15:06 You're gonna make them feel important. You're gonna block them from totally making you look like an idiot. Now, make sure you do that before you send it.
Okay. the last thing. Step nine. It's not done yet. You need to implement the tool. Now, whatever change you're making, you can't just send out an email and say, "It's changed." You need to prescribe: what day of the week is it gonna change? How are you gonna follow up? How are you gonna check that everything works? How are you gonna gather feedback and adjust things? That's an important step. You're the owner of this improvement, so see it all the way through. Don't try and change it, then let it fail, and then try and walk away. You broke it, you own it. Alright? Boom. You just changed the world.
Now, remember: Rome wasn't built in a day. Even if your idea's small, do it. Solving people's problems, solving people's pain points, is the kind of flagship accomplishment that's going to get you promoted. It's going to get you recognized, and it might even get you loved.
Now, before we leave today's episode, I want to share a few examples. Because this is something I'm really passionate about, because at each stop in my career, whether it was at Gap, Levi's, or Uniqlo, I've always made a point of trying to create one of these improvements, these flagship accomplishments. And I remember when I was young, there was this process we had to fill out. And it would take six hours, and you had to do it once a month. And everyone hated it, and it was just the worst thing in the world. I printed out all the forms. It was something like 350 pages. It killed the photocopy machine. I used more than an entire, like, package of paper. But I printed it all out. And when I went to the CEO and dropped a pound of paper on his desk, it said everything that I wanted it to say. It said, "This is a mess. And we have to fix it."
And in that case, they ended up spending 100,000 dollars to improve the system. I got a president's award, it was like, probably the last trophy I've gotten in my entire life, at the age of 22. It might have been all downhill since then. But the point is, it put me on the map. It got me a super-fast promotion. Everyone liked me because I took three hours and gave it back to them. And really, if I got down to it, the only thing I did was print out this form and show everyone visually, this is how painful it is. That's what I mean about the visual breakthrough.
Now, when you become a boss, you're not gonna know all these things to improve. You're not filling out the forms. So if you're a boss, solicit your team. At the weekly team meeting, ask them, "What is bothering you? What's you're number one thing -- if you could change it, what do you want me to change?" Get them to bubble this up for you, and then your job is to help usher through getting this problem fixed. That's why you're there. You're not there to do the work. You're there to make other people's lives better.
Now, if you can improve something that they hate, well gosh. Then they're gonna think you're a good boss. And life is good. So whether you're an employee, a boss, or no matter where you are, these are the nine steps you have to take in order to solve big problems, even through small changes. Don't skip any of them. You've gotta follow these nine steps, be methodical, and trust the process.
Alright, that's it for the Mr. Corpo podcast this week. Hopefully you've got something at your work that you want to change. I'd love for you to go out and change. Start it tomorrow. Let me know how it goes. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask me if you have any questions. Whatever you want to do, shout at me. Please visit mrcorpo.com. And that's all I want to talk about today.
Rob, thanks for another great episode. And without further ado, get back to work.