Tom Peters, noted management guru and author of groundbreaking books like In Search of Excellence and Pursuit of WOW, published some great (and free) content about the importance of allies and action for driving change in business. You can download a copy here.
Let’s first talk about the action part of the story. Like me, Peters is a huge proponent of the Ready…Fire…Aim principle. We are living in a business environment where great initiatives start small and are highly iterative. New ventures are started with minimum viable products (MVP) and fast failure is the key. According to Peters, the relevant acronym is now WTTMSW: Whoever tries the most stuff wins.
This bias towards action is the hallmark of a good B2B marketing organization. New stuff is tried, tests are made, results are evaluated, and plans evolve based on real-time data. Research is short and inexpensive because you know that the true test of whether something is going to work is at the point of purchase, not in a focus group or survey questionnaire. You learn more from trying things than talking about them. To put this in Wayne Gretzky’s words, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
Now on to the “allies” part of the message. Peters has a great quote in his paper: “Implementing desired change is not about vanquishing enemies. Implementing desired change is about recruiting and nurturing allies.” This is a lesson I could have used earlier in my career as I spent many hours (and a few sleepless nights) trying to convert people to my way of thinking. Instead of going through this painful (and usually fruitless) process, I could have been recruiting more allies to the cause and thereby neutralize the naysayers.
This concept of focusing on allies is important in both the internal and external arenas. For example, you may have one or more managers in your business who disagree with your marketing approach and they may subtly or overtly try to sabotage your efforts. You can either spend energy fighting, pleading or coercing these individuals, or you can recruit and nurture other managers until your opponents have little or no power over what you do.
Likewise, if you take any type of stand in the public arena, you will have critics, and social media makes it easy for them to broadcast disparaging views. You may never understand the motivation for their resistance, and it is often futile for you to do so. Better to find numbers of others who will publicly support you.
This was another tough lesson for me. As a speaker and author, I would often be hurt by a poor review of one of my books or conference presentations—until a wise colleague gave me some great advice. He said that even the best speakers and authors get poor reviews for reasons as silly as someone viewing you as a threat or you reminding them of their ex-spouse. He urged me to look only at the overall batting average and not focus on every at-bat. This is good advice for all of us who make our living in marketing. No matter how good you are, or how much you care, you will not please everyone. Instead of fretting over a small number of critics, focus on cultivating a large number of supporters.