Friday, October 15

The Oxygen of Executive Attention?

So you've accumulated 27 new ideas this week, and one or two of the better ones are really starting to take shape after discussions with specialists.  Does that mean it's time to open a dialogue with senior management?

Unfortunately, it probably doesn't--unless you happen to have an especially enlightened team of CxOs.  Most of the top team will tend to be rather preoccupied with today's pressing issues, and will tend to be impatient with half-baked ideas.  The best you can really hope for at this early stage is a word or two of general-purpose encouragement.

Far better then to spend a little more time elaborating the idea into something which resembles an early business case.  It will be more readily recognised and interpretted that way, and is likely to be taken more seriously as a result.  I suggest thinking carefully about what your senior managers like to see as part of a proposal, and creating a simple template to ensure the main areas always get some consideration.  (For example, one of my templates has slides for each of the following: Need, Costs and Benefits, Solution, and Alignment.)

This is the reinforcing process we often call "Greenhousing", and the analogy with plants is quite a useful one:  Your sapling idea can grow in the oxygen of a breeze, but a hurricane will tear it away.  Protect the early ideas until they've developed.

There's one notable exception to all this:  If you've managed (or stumbled) your way into a situation where there's direct executive sponsorship for creative thinking then exposing your ideas early can help you maintain and strengthen that sponsorship.  You're in the lucky position of having a CxO in the greenhouse with you, and you should make the most of that opportunity.

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