On Feet

Did that title get your attention? Good. The title will become clear…

Geek leaders (and the geeks who follow them) are often frustrated by the business folk in their company. We present upper management with a brilliant solution to some obvious problem, only to be shot down. “Morons!” We think. “How can they not see that my solution will be the panacea that this company needs???”

Lather, rinse, repeat. After a few cycles, the geeks or geek leaders come to the blindingly obvious conclusion that the company is being run by a bunch of idiots.

Okay; maybe the business folk aren’t the whiz kids that the geeks always have been, but they probably have more active brain cells than geeks think. So where’s the disconnect? Why don’t the business folk see the obvious solutions? Why can’t the geeks and geek leaders convince them?

It’s a foot issue. Anyone tends to lead with their most-used foot. Unfortunately, it’s not the same foot that the business folk receive well (the metaphor breaks here, but I figure you’ll forgive me). The business folk expect to see the business foot come first, and when they see the geek foot, many of them tune out instantly and never hear the geek leader’s (valid) arguments–either business or technical.

Think of it as a marching band. All of the members had to learn to lead with the same foot to begin, or else–chaos. In business, geeks and geek leaders have to learn to lead with the business foot (to business folks, who are also leading with their business foot), or else–chaos.

Are the technical arguments stronger than the business case? Probably. But the point isn’t to lead with what you think are the strongest arguments–it’s to get your proposed solution approved. While leading with the business foot feels awkward and wrong, it’s the foot that will get through to the business folk. And then, when they actually listen and approve your solution? Maybe you’ll discover that they’re not quite as dumb as you thought…