"I read your bio and watched your video about rebels," the CEO said to me yesterday during our first meeting. "I just want to let you know that we squash that kind of person around here."
What an interesting introduction to a company hiring me to facilitate their growth strategy planning. Like all good change agents, I was curious about why this executive disliked those brave souls who bring up new and sometimes uncomfortable ideas.
"I just can't stand it when people throw out these big, radical ideas and haven't thought them through or done any research. You can't just say, 'We should move into this market or expand into this new product category.' What are the implications to operations? What kind of sales support will we need? What will it take to hire and train the right people? What will be the impact on cash flow? When might we see a return? One year? Five years? Ten years? I realize you can't have all the answers, but when someone presents an idea they better have done some homework or they'll lose all credibility."
The lesson: rebels and change makers need to do their homework, be prepared, and understand how to sequence their ideas. As Carmen wrote in the post "Top Ten Mistakes of Rebels at Work:"
Mistake #2. Putting things in the wrong order.
Ironically, successful Rebels at Work must be able to mimic good bureaucrat behavior. Specifically, they have to approach their change agenda in a disciplined fashion and make careful and thoughtful decisions about how they will sequence their activities. What do they need to do first; what can come next; what can only be attempted after they have reached a critical mass of supporters.
A common rebel sequencing error, one in fact which I’ve been guilty of more than once, is advertising your reform intentions before you have assessed the organizational landscape in which you are operating. In the government making your goals public before you have a firm action plan only gives fair warning to all those who will oppose you. They will sharpen their passive-aggressive claws to stop you before you even get started. There’s much for a rebel to do before they give fancy speeches or—God forbid—put together their Powerpoint deck.