Gina Trapani: This is very cathartic. I mean, I really miss recording the show with you, Chris, and we’re gonna do more of it. You and I are just gonna take over the studio every once in a while.
Chris LoSacco: (Laughs) It’s pretty easy to do.
Gina: This is… this is my therapy, thank you everyone who listens…
Chris: Oh, my god.
[CATALYST INTRO MUSIC]
Gina: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. I’m still getting used to saying this.
Gina: Uh… this is the show formerly known as the Postlight podcast. I’m Gina Trapani, and as always, I’m joined by my business partner Chris LoSacco. Hey, Chris.
Chris: Hey, Gina.
Gina: How’s it going?
Chris: Good. I’m excited to be recording with you, we have a lot to talk about, we’re in a brand new world.
Gina: We are.
Chris: Maybe we should just… can we take a minute and just talk about Launch? ‘Cause, I think Launch… even though it’s, we’ve been out in the world for a little bit, it’s still new. So… what is it?
Gina: It’s only been a few months. It’s only been a few months.
Chris: It’s only a few months.
Gina: In our world, a few months is… is brand new. So, Launch is a new group at NTT Data, and we’re focused on delivering amazing experiences through custom software for our clients. Right?
Gina: So, Postlight was a firm that you and I ran, and then NTT Data acquired us, and along with a few other really amazing companies, sibling companies who are very aligned with us in spirit, and brought us all together into this new thing called Launch. And, you know, we’re both newborn and also, you know, in midlife, right?
Chris: (Laughs) Yes. Totally.
Gina: Because collectively, all the different groups that came together to make Launch have decades of experience, you know, delivering just beautiful custom software, and now we’ve joined forces, like the Avengers… (Laughs) To go even bigger and better. In… for our clients.
Chris: Yes. And we can do more now, which is…
Chris: …is really cool, right?
Chris: We never had a machine learning team at Postlight, we never had a quality engineering or quality automation team at Postlight, and now we…
Gina: Data team, salesforce…
Chris: Data team, exactly.
Gina: I mean, we’ve just, we’ve got all of it. We’ve got all of it now.
Chris: There’s a lot more we can do, and that’s been… you know, a little intimidating, if I’m honest, to like, get my head around…
Chris: ‘Cause it’s a lot of things. But it’s really exciting, ‘cause now we can, you know, if a prospective client says “Well, wait a second, we also want this thing,” and most of the time, 95% of the time, the answer will be “Oh yeah, we can do that for you too.”
Gina: “Oh yeah, we can do that, we can do that.”
Gina: Whereas at Postlight, we would sort of tapdance and be like “We have a lot of very senior, very smart people who can read the documentation and be an expert very quickly.”
Gina: Which was true, it wasn’t wrong.
Chris: We backed that up a lot of times. Yeah.
Gina: We backed that up a lot of times. But we were, like, a small collection of very senior generalists, but… and now, we’ve got this, like, you know, team of specialists who really can go deep on basically anything our clients need, which is really, really cool.
Chris: It is really cool.
Gina: But like you said, also a bit intimidating.
Chris: Yeah. Well, and, I think we… you and I have been on this journey where our roles are, have changed, are changing.
Chris: And that’s been interesting, right? Because we used to run the thing, and so it was kinda like… we were, we had our hands in every part of the business. We were keeping track of finance, and operations, and people, and all of our client engagements, and how the disciplines were evolving. We were just looking at everything, right? We ran our comp cycles.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: When people wanted raises or promot… we did all of it.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: Um… and now, we run a product innovation team. We have a team of product managers and business agility folks and designers, who… and business analysts, who are thinking about, you know, a narrower slice of the pie. And it’s been an interesting evolution, I think, for us.
Gina: It’s been such a wild adventure and ride. And it’s actually the thing that really inspired the thing that I wanna talk to you about, today, which is just when you’re coming to a new role, when you’re a leader and you shift into a different role, a new role, or a different context, everything kind of gets rejiggered, you know? So, it’s so funny, like, you know, being… we were CEO and president of Postlight, we’re leading now the product group inside Launch, which is awesome. It’s so great.
Chris: It’s fantastic.
Gina: Like… I’m just gonna be honest. Running ops and finance and figuring out… like, it doesn’t feed my soul. Right? But, like, making… (Laughs) making really great experiences for our clients, that really does it for me. Right?
Gina: So, I’m so excited that we get to be in this position at Launch. Especially with the incredible group of, you know, very deep and wide talent that we have now. But it’s such a change, because I found myself just being like “Where is my lane?”
Gina: How do I stay in it? When am I veering out of it? What else is going on here at this much bigger place, and what parts of what Launch is do I have control over? Which do I not? And which can I influence for, you know, the better. And so, I was talking to you, and I was talking to my coach about this idea of just like, your sphere of influence. The things that you can… you can nudge toward change for the better, and… hopefully, if you’ve got your head on your shoulders right, which I hope I do. (Laughs) But I was thinking about, you know, the people who listen to this show are also product leaders. And product leaders kind of by definition are change agents. They’re people leading change…
Gina: They’re people kind of finding a way forward, and aligning the business interests, and their customers’ business interests and needs…
Chris: Mhm. Mhm.
Gina: And their employees’ interests and needs. And so, I think the product folks and leaders who listen to this show, they’re probably going through this all the time. Like, “What, where… can I…” You know, “So, what is my sphere of influence? How do I become aware of it? How do I expand it? How do I say ‘Okay, this is just out… this part, this thing over here, it’s out of my hands?’”
Chris: It’s out of my hands. That’s right.
Chris: Yeah. I mean… so, I think… I can hear the nods as people are listening to this, right?
Chris: Because our transition was a very particular kind of thing, where we went from a small organization to a large organization, like, more or less overnight. Right? It’s been a months-long transition, for sure, but it was a dramatic change, and I think other folks are not… the change is not as dramatic. But as you join and navigate through a large organization, you’re exactly right. You’re constantly going to be looking for, where are the edges of what I can do? What I should do? And should I narrow my focus and try to get a very particular thing done, and done really well? Should I expand my focus and try to, you know, build connections, build alliances with other teams, and be able to influence more things? But that’s harder to do? I mean, one of the key lessons, I feel like… we’re… we’ve both learned and are learning, is that you can’t do it all yourself. And you have to think about how you build these bridges to other parts of the organization, to be able to say, really, if we want to level up great product work, it’s not just about having a great product team. ‘Cause we’ve already got that. Check. Check the box, right?
Chris: But what we now have to do is say, we need to connect that product team to other parts of the organization.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: And I think a lot of people go through that too, where they think about… their sphere of influence is to make a particular lane of the highway run really smoothly and efficiently, but you also have to be thinking about the other lanes of the highway so that you can make the connection points, so that the whole system works.
Gina: That’s right. That’s right. Laterally, you know, to the groups and the functions that are next to you…
Gina: Up, particularly up, right? ‘Cause… you can have a great product team, but if the work that they’re producing, or the roadmap that they’ve got in front of them, isn’t like, perfectly connected to the business strategy, the business’s goals, right? The business’s mission… like, you know. Then they’re going to become the team that, like, people try to go around or skip over or leave out of conversations, right?
Chris: That’s exactly right. I mean, we’ve seen people lose their jobs, you know?
Gina: Oh, for sure.
Chris: Because they… not because they were doing a bad job, but because they were going in the wrong direction.
Gina: They were doing the wrong job. (Laughs)
Chris: They were doing the wrong job.
Chris: That’s right. Yep.
Gina: That’s right. And you know, we see this with our prospects. So, you know, there are times when folks at big orgs in particular approach us. We had a situation recently. A pretty high-up leader inside a very large corporation, old company, really trying to modernize. And she was a… she was a former leader at a… at Facebook, I think. At a modern sort of SaaS-FANG company. And so they brought her in…
Chris: Tech-focused company.
Gina: Tech-focused company. And they brought her in kind of with the mandate, like… and we get this… we’re seeing this a lot, right? Like, “Help us make this leap from project to product.”
Gina: “Help us change the way we think, and the way we operate, because we’re falling behind. We’re not meeting our customers’ needs, and we need to move faster, we need to move more smoothly, we need to experiment more, we need to fail faster and build on successes faster,” right?
Gina: And so, she came to us and we were, like, very like-minded. I was like, “Oh, I see you.” She spoke our language, she knew exactly, you know, what we had to offer, why it was so important. She brought us in, and I was like “Oh, we’re definitely going to do this work, I’m so excited. This person is great, this is great work.”
Chris: It was a great match.
Gina: It was a great match. And… at the last… (Snaps fingers) You know, last minute, someone else in the org, who is, I think… you know, I’m not totally sure ‘cause I couldn’t see into the org chart, but was, you know, appeared to her, got wind of this effort that she was lead, leading, and said… or, trying to spearhead and get started with us, and said “Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s not what we’re doing. That’s not what we’re doing at all. This is… this is what we’re doing.” (Laughs) And she came back to us and said “Look, I’m… you know, I’m sorry, this is not… I don’t have the go-ahead on this. Can’t do it.” And that’s completely fine. That kind of thing happens all the time. A lot of times people are kind of taking a risk or making a leap with us, or using the conversations with us to sort of make the case, you know, to their bosses, about why we should go ahead.
Gina: But she, she had definitely miscalculated. (Laughs)
Gina: She’d miscalculated the influence and the mandate and her ability to make the decision. And it was such a bummer, ‘cause I really did want to work with her and I hope we will. And so, when we… when we talk to prospects, we try to see, like, who… is this… you know, and sometimes we use signals just like, you know, title or relationships or mandate. If we see somebody with a mandate for… you know, revenue is a really big one.
Gina: Cost savings is a good one, revenue’s even better.
Gina: And someone who is high up enough in the org, and has the reputation and has the backing, the executive backing to go ahead, this is when we know, okay. This person can make this decision and move forward with us, and make this happen. Conversely, you know, we work with another client, who… you know, she came into an org, she was very high up, brought up by somebody very high up, she had a revenue mandate, and she brought us in and was like “We’re gonna build this new platform.” And I remember, she brought us in, and she said “Okay, we’re just gonna start taking meetings with all the different groups throughout the org.” And we’d go to these meetings, and she said “This is what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna build this new platform, this is what it’s gonna do.” And the people in the meetings would be like “You’re doing… wait. You’re doing what?”
Gina: “No, no. You can’t do that. No. John tried that, like, five years ago, and it failed.”
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Gina: “Wait… did you think about Sally’s group? Because Sally’s group, that’s not gonna work for them, and…”
Chris: “It’ll never fly.” Yeah.
Gina: And she would nod and smile. That’s all. She would just nod and smile. It was this kind of, like, knowing smile. And then we’d end the meetings and shake hands and walk out, and she’d be like, “Great. Okay, next we’re going to meet this group.” She was just doing the tour. She was just… and, she was just kinda letting people know, this is what’s going to happen. And she was fearless, and she never took no for an answer, and she was one of the best client advocates, actually, we’ve ever worked for. Because she…
Chris: Without a doubt.
Gina: She just led this just incredible change, inside this org. And she just did it group by group. You know, she found her biggest, you know, critics and skeptics, she found her biggest allies and advocates, and she just… she worked… (Laughs) She worked the group and made it happen. And she looks like the hero now. This was like five years ago.
Chris: Right, it worked. That’s the…
Chris: You know, the end of the story is a happy one. But…
Chris: We should dig in on this for a second, because it’s interesting. If you think about sphere of influence, that particular advocate… this was a little bit, I mean, it was pushing up against the boundaries. Right?
Chris: You highlighted a couple of things, though, that I think are worth underscoring. The first one is, this effort was tied to revenue.
Chris: And when you can tie… when you can, when you can be part of a program that generates dollars, that is a trump card. It’s like, “Well, hold on a second.”
Gina: In a capitalist society, that is the ultimate trump card. (Laughs)
Chris: Yes. Yes. And so, and so… I think as folks are listening to this, and they’re thinking, you know, “How do I… what do I take away? How do I… you know, connect to this in my world?” If you’re, if the thing you’re working on is not tied to revenue, how do you make a connection so that it is? Even if it’s one or two steps removed?
Chris: And if it is tied to revenue, make that the guiding principle. Like, that should be at the top of your north star meetings, you know? Is, how are we generating more money? Because that is very difficult to argue with. Rightfully so. That’s number one. Number two is, this idea that you have to go around… in a big organization, there are a lot of people with their own interests. And part of the job is figuring out what those interests are, and connecting to them, or aligning with them. Or, maybe not. Maybe saying, “This group is going to be problematic for me, and I need to figure out how to minimize their involvement.” Because there’s…
Gina: (Laughs) Yes.
Chris: Let’s be real. When you get to a certain size, it’s… you’re not gonna make everybody happy. And that’s okay. And, you know, you have to just allow for a… I was gonna say rival faction, that sounds a little intense.
Gina: That does sound intense.
Chris: But you know, there are going to be people who don’t agree with what you’re doing. And you shouldn’t expect 100% agreement. But you do need to make sure you’ve got connections to other parts of the org.
Gina: That’s right. That’s right. The naysayers are going to exist. Of course you want to be respectful and professional, but there are some times when you’re just gonna have to say “Okay, I hear you, we’re gonna continue… we’re gonna continue to roll. We’re gonna keep going.”
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: And you know, it’s funny. Something that I realized, you know… in a big organization, it’s often not people who are so against change and progress. It’s just the power of inertia. And momentum.
Gina: Don’t mess with my world.
Gina: I know how to do what I do, it works just fine, why are you scheduling time with me? Why are you asking me to, like… you know, think about something that isn’t important to me? Right? ‘Cause everybody’s got their own agenda. Right? And so, you know, the person leading change has their own agenda, we’re going to make this change as soon as possible, and everybody else is just trying to get their jobs done, right?
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: And it’s actually not malicious, it’s just like, “C’mon, man. Why are you messing with me? I’m just trying…” (Laughs)
Chris: Right. Right.
Gina: I’m just trying to get my job done today, I know how to do my job. Don’t change how I get my job done, don’t make this more difficult for me. You know?
Chris: Absolutely. Especially when you’re working with… I mean, if you’re doing a customer-facing system, you deal with some of that. When you’re working on an internal-facing system, you’re gonna get that all. The. Time.
Gina: All day long. All day long.
Chris: Even if the thing is bad. People get very good at bad systems.
Chris: People learn the quirks and they learn the pitfalls, and they say “Oh, I know I can’t click that button, because, you know, it doesn’t save properly, and I have to go over here to execute this three-step process to make sure that…”
Chris: Like, they have the cheat sheet, you know? And even if you’re trying to make their lives better, it’s… it can be very difficult for people to see that, and to internalize it, and frankly, to believe it. I mean, this is another thing…
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: If you’re thinking about how do I expand, you know, my sphere of influence, how do I think about widening my aperture a little bit? Part of it is, you gotta… you gotta do what you said. Like, you gotta follow through.
Chris: Right? Because then people start to be like, Oh. I know that team. They ship. They actually do stuff.
Gina: This is a person who gets things done.
Gina: They actually ship. This is a person who gets stuff done. They said they were gonna get a thing done, and then they got the thing done, and then they did that over and over and over again. This is a person who has a reputation and credibility, right? Which is why, like, when you first show up, it’s very hard to be a change leader. You know, like, you know… (Laughs) When you first show up.
Chris: You have no backing.
Gina: Right, right.
Chris: You have no track record.
Gina: You have to build a reputation. Right. Exactly.
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: Exactly. So much of it is, you know… both… you know, knowing when to build allies and build relationships and collaborate, and when to sort of route around, and say “We’re going to, we’re just, we’re going to go ahead with this, and we’ll circle back. You know, we’ll come back, and I’ll show you where we’re at.”
Chris: Let me run this by you and see what you think. Do you… do you also, as the group… as a group gets bigger, right? Your mechanisms for influencing… not… influencing is maybe the wrong word here. But your mechanisms for directing and advocating for a particular direction, for a particular way forward, they become different. Because when you’re a small… when you’re leading a small team, you just talk to each other all the time.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: And that happens asynchronously, it can happen in standups, it can happen… you know, whatever your paths of communication, you’re just… the group is small enough that you make all these connections, and you’re just constantly reinforcing them. But when the group gets large, the… the things change. The mechanisms change.
Chris: Because now it has to be more about vision, and approach, and a lot of it is written or, you know, communicated with a very succinct slide deck or set of values that you are then arming people to say, “I’m gonna… I have internalized this, and now I can make my decisions for my team based on this higher-level thing.” And I… you know, I bring this up because I think this is something that you and I are going through. Right?
Chris: Which is, how do we… we were setting vision and direction for a company, now we’re setting vision and direction for a team, and it’s a little bit different.
Gina: Triple the size of that company, right? (Laughs)
Chris: This is the thing. Like, the scope is smaller, but it’s many more people.
Chris: And so, we’re having to, you know, adjust our approach there. And I think that… I think that others go through this, right? When they come into a new organization or they take over a new team, and they have to think about “Okay, how do I… how do I think about my group, right, and where I want it to go?” And then the right ways to get that message down to people. Because I can’t have one-on-ones with hundreds of people. It just doesn’t work that way.
Gina: That’s right. That’s right. Oh, it’s so funny that you say that. We used to have one-on-ones with everybody in the company, you know, a couple a week.
Gina: At a small company you can do that in a year, right? And that just doesn’t scale. It’s so interesting, the point that you’re making too, about… this is a big thing that I’m learning, as someone going from a small… you know, a smaller context to a larger context. This is something, this is a point that Aaron Millstone was making to us, who we’ve actually had on this show, who’s really really smart about this type of thing. In a smaller group, you know, you and I used to really lead… of course we had strategy and business goals, but a lot of it was like, intuition and gut feel and sort of anecdotal evidence…
Gina: Right? Because we were a small group, and you’d be having a lot of conversations, and you’d kinda read the room, and it… you kinda led with your… not emotions, but sort of your… it was more instinct. Instinctual. Right? But in a large group, you have to be… you can have data, right? Because there are enough people for there to be actual data, you know? An employee engagement survey, you know, one employee doesn’t represent, you know, one or two percent of the entire company, right? It’s thousands of people. So you have enough data to see actual trends, and you can use data, and this is something I think that I really learned, to make your case, right?
Gina: And to say, you know, “We see this trend. This is how much revenue was lost. This is how much attrition we saw. This is… these are the opportunities that we think that we missed out on, and this is how much we project in dollars that means. That’s why we’re advocating for this change.” It’s the… and you know, you and I were talking all the time, running Postlight, we’d be like “Aah, this doesn’t feel right. I think we should do something different.”
Gina: Right? (Laughs)
Gina: And it wasn’t like… we were presenting facts and figures and data to one another, I mean, certainly we were looking at the financials of the business overall, month over month, but from a running standpoint it was like, how does this feel? Does this feel right? Does this align with our values? And so… because we’re moving from that sort of gut instinct to a fact-based, here’s why this isn’t good for the business, or here’s why this isn’t good for the client, or here’s the trend that we’re seeing over time, because we’ve got, you know, hundreds of people in this situation, in this kind of client, or this is the broad shift that we want to make to the way that we provide our services by the way we, you know, oversee our engagements. That’s been really eye-opening for me. It’s a lot more work. (Laughs) Because you have to dig up a lot more data.
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: And you have to, you know, frame it in a way that aligns with the case that you’re trying to make. And there’s also this other aspect of it, right? Where you’re in a larger organization, there are just more layers, there are just more groups, and there’s just a lot more conversations, right?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah.
Gina: It’s a lot more like, gathering support, or “let me tell you this story. Fiction or nonfiction? What’s your take on this?” You know? (Laughs)
Gina: And you get input, and you refine your case, and you bring it up, and these things just take… take time. This is why things take a little bit longer. But you can see… there’s a discipline in that, and there’s also, like, “Oh, I can see we made this decision because of this… this business case which you lay out.” Which isn’t “Chris, this doesn’t feel right for our organization, let’s change this up a bit.”
Chris: (Laughs) Which we did a lot. Yeah.
Gina: (Laughs) Which we did a lot of.
Chris: Right. I had… so, I have two thoughts that are in different directions. The first one is, I agree with everything you’ve said, but. I think there is still a place for gut feel, and sometimes you do have to be like, just, instinct tells me that we have to try something different here. And that is… that is okay. And I think there is… you know, the pendulum has swung so far to data backing up decisions. And don’t get me wrong, the point you were making is unequivocally true. I mean, I can think of, you know… (Laughs) Several meetings just in the past couple weeks where that… you know, having the data to back things up, that was the thing that moved, you know, moved the needle.
Chris: That was what broke through a logjam. Because we had something to point back to and say “No no no, we’re not just feeling this, like, there’s a real impact here and we can quantify it.” So I don’t disagree at all. But I think you have to pair it with, sometimes you just, you get a sense about something, and you’re like “I really think we need to, you know, shift four degrees in this direction,” or “We need to try… this is an experiment, but we’re gonna try doing X Y or Z.” And I think that there should be a place for that. There should be a place for that in leadership, there should be a place for that in product teams, where you don’t have all the data and that’s okay. And you still figure out a way to take a risk. Even if it’s a small risk. To go with your gut and see if your hunch was right. And, you know, your hunch is not always going to be right. Right? But I think you’ve gotta allow for that too. And I think… again, personal experience, right? You and I still do that. We don’t do it as often as when we were running a small company, but there are times when we say “You know what? I think we just really need to shift things in this way.” And then we just go do it. And we see what happens.
Gina: I totally agree with that. And “go with your gut” sounds like you’re saying, you know, “it is my personal preference that this be this way, and therefore it should.” And I wanna adjust that a little bit. I think there’s… there’s like… this… you know, you set about what this thing… you know, Launch. Right? We are, we’re cross-functional teams that are focused entirely on custom software that’s an amazing experience, right? We’re not married to any one technology, we don’t have, you know, any hard and fast process that we run every single time. It’s… we are about business outcomes and driving toward them with our clients, right? So you can set that vision forth, right? And you can say, “We’re a premium shop. We partner with our clients. We give… you know, we anticipate their needs. We provide, you know, the highest level of service.” And when you set that forth, and say “This is what we’re trying to do here,” it makes it easier to say “This level of service we provided to this client is not up to our standard. We need to do better here.”
Chris: That’s right. Yes.
Gina: (Laughs) You know? And there isn’t… you know, I don’t have facts and figures and charts and data. It’s just, this employee experience that we’re creating? Does not align with the kind of org that we’re trying to build to partner with our clients. Like, it just doesn’t… it just doesn’t make sense. This is not what we’re trying to do here, right? So it’s almost like, instead of aligning… and I think we did this more with Postlight, right? Like, versus aligning with our personal preferences and our gut, although we did, you know, build an organization that really resonated with us personally, that was the thing that we wanted to build.
Gina: I mean, we did have alignment there. It’s like, it’s like… does… is this the kind of business… you know, is this what we’re trying to do here? You know.
Chris: Is this what we’re trying to do.
Gina: Yeah. There’s lots of ways to make money, right? There’s like, infinite numbers of ways to make money.
Chris: (Laughs) That’s right.
Gina: We choose to make money in this way…
Chris: This particular life.
Gina: With this market positioning, for these kinds of clients, this particular way. So like, if something that we’re doing doesn’t line up, we should change it. Right? We should be who we say we’re trying to be. I think vision and values and strategy are aspirational, and every day it’s trying to be more of that. And look, if the strategy or the vision isn’t… if the market’s rejecting it, if employees, you know… if it doesn’t work then you’ve gotta change it up.
Chris: You’ve gotta change it. Yeah.
Gina: Right? There’s a point where you plant the… a flag in the sand and say, this is the thing that we’re trying to do, so let’s be this thing.
Chris: That’s so well said. Even within that construct, compromise can still be necessary sometimes…
Chris: That’s another thing that we’re learning. But that’s okay. There are some things where you’re like, this is not… this doesn’t feel like the truest expression of the way we should be running this part of the business…
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: But we will accept it. And then, guess what? There are other things where you’re like, this is too far. And we do need to push back against this. And I’m sure that people listening are running through the mental checklist of the same kind of calculus, right? If they’re in a big organization, there are some things that they just accept, even though they’re not great, and then there are other things that they’re like “We have to… we have to change. We have to push for better in these instances.” And it’s something that we go through, but I think a lot of our clients, a lot of our connections, are also going through it. Because not everything is perfect. And you’re right, vision is aspirational. And so you’re always thinking about, how do we move a little bit closer?
Chris: How do we get one notch or two notches, you know, along the path towards realizing the vision? It’s not… you’re not going to wake up overnight and feel like, “Oh! Now we’ve done it. We’ve checked all the things,” right? The vision is complete. It doesn’t work like that. You are… you set your north star and then you’re striving for, how do we get there with all these incremental decisions along the way.
Gina: That’s right. And a big part… I mean, a big part of this is choosing, right. ‘Cause we live in an imperfect world. (Laughs) Right? And every organization who we could list… you could probably list dozens of things that don’t align with the vision or the strategy, or could be done better, right? And… and… you kind of have to, it’s the choose-your-battles, you know?
Chris: Choose your battles! This…
Gina: You have to choose the ones that are going to make the biggest change. This is a big part of influence too, right? Because…
Gina: ‘Cause the thing about building your reputation and building credibility and being that change agent who can actually make change happen? You have to pick the stuff that has the biggest impact that’s also possible. (Laughs) Like, that you can get done, and demonstrate that you get done. And it is… it’s not easy to make those turn out.
Chris: It’s not easy.
Gina: ‘Cause you kinda have to disagree and commit, and swallow the bitter pill of a few other things being really not good, not great. (Laughs)
Gina: You’re like, “I’m not gonna… I’m not taking this on right now. I’m taking this on. This is what I’m taking now.”
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: Um, ‘cause if, you know, if you’re the person who pushes against every single thing, every single meeting, you’re going to become ineffectual. But if you just roll with everything being kind of mediocre…
Chris: That’s also not good.
Gina: Also ineffectual. Right.
Gina: That’s right. That’s right.
Chris: You are nailing this. This is… this is the sweet spot of sphere of influence, is you have to… you have to think about… it has to be broad enough that you’re not resigned to everything. But it has to be narrow enough that you can actually make change. A specific thing that’s coming to mind is a client we work with who wanted to rethink… it’s a publisher, and they wanted to rethink their web presence. But they didn’t start with the whole thing, ‘cause they knew it was too big and it wouldn’t get done. There were too many people to get, you know, marketing had to buy in on the home page, and sales had to buy in on the subscriber platform, and it was just too much. So they said, “What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna take steps along the path. The first thing we’re gonna start with is under the hood improvements, right? We’re gonna make it a lot easier to publish an article, we’re gonna make it a lot easier to, you know, have rich blocks of interaction that we can put inside of things.” Right? They didn’t start with, “We’re gonna rethink the entire site.” They said, “We know that our sphere is a little small right now, and we’re gonna embrace that, and we’re gonna say we know that there are things that we can make better. Let’s make those things better first.” And then what happened, sure enough? It built, right? And they got more and more credibility, they were able to tackle more and more things, and a couple of months ago, or maybe it was at the beginning of the year, they relaunched a homepage. And it’s been a smashing success.
Chris: But it wasn’t… you know, you look at it from the outside in, and you think “Oh, they redid the whole site.” And it was like, “Well, yeah. But that’s not… that’s not how it started.”
Gina: They didn’t bite off the whole site. That’s not where it started.
Chris: We didn’t bite off the whole site. And through the lens of this conversation, right, the sphere of influence conversation, that was a very smart tactical move, to say “We know that our influence is not big enough to wipe the slate clean. We have to… we have to take steps along the path.” And lo and behold, they got there. Right? They got to the same finish line, it was just a much more incremental, much more targeted approach.
Gina: They didn’t boil the ocean.
Chris: They didn’t boil the ocean.
Gina: ‘Cause, you know, like… good work that ships and people can see, begets more… “More of this please. Oh, that looks so good.”
Chris: More of this, that’s right.
Gina: “Can we do that on all of these pages.” I mean, this is the thing, right? And this is how you turn the people to sort of… you know, floating along with inertia, or the straight-up naysayers or skeptics, into “Oh! Hm. That looks nice.”
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: And this is also the power of just, great design. Right?
Gina: People see something that’s really beautiful and modern and looks… and looks just slick…
Gina: And premium and polished, they’re like, “Whoa! Let’s… I want, you know, more of that.” Right? And I think design is so important. And… yeah. Maybe you don’t get signoff to redo the whole website. But if you take it, you know, one section at a time, and just… you know, do it really, really well, that’s gonna build. That momentum builds. I mean, this is why… I mean, we say it all the time. Like, no one can argue with working software, right? That’s why we focus on shipping something small, but absolutely beautiful and world-changing, you know? Because that’s your best chance to say “Okay, more of this.”
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: More of this.
Chris: We say it all the time, and yet it’s astounding to me how many companies are not doing it. There are so many teams out there that haven’t shipped anything to production in three months, six months. A year. (Laughs)
Chris: Like, it’s… it’s so common.
Chris: And it’s kind of mind-boggling to me how many conversations we have, where it’s like “Yeah, I’m really frustrated with my team, we just can’t get seem to get anything done.”
Gina: Yeah. ‘Cause they’re bogged down with, you know, policy and IT and the backlog of all the bug reports. You know what I mean? Like… right. They’re behind. Instead of… instead of forward. Right? And this is…
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: This is part of that project to product transition, and… no. It’s tough! It’s really tough. This is why, really, you need that leader that goes, “Stop. No more of this. We’re gonna… we’re gonna do something different here.” Right?
Gina: But you need that leader. With that influence. But we feel you, we see you out there. I think all the product folks, all the product leaders out there, and the folks in the orbit of the product team, like… I see you, I feel you, I empathize with you. You know, when you’re pushing for a positive change, it’s… it’s hard, it’s tiring and exhausting. Gather… gather your allies, get your data. Align with… you know, listen to what your bosses are saying, what’s on their minds, ‘cause when they’re worried about a thing, suddenly that’ll get… that’ll shoot to the top of the list.
Gina: You know…
Gina: And draft right off of that. It sounds extremely political, but when you’re in a big org, when there’s thousands of people coordinating to get a thing done every day, I’m still sort of boggled by the size of our new org and how anything gets done every day. It’s just so many humans. You know? Trying to get behind a thing. It’s just… it’s just… it’s part of the game. It’s part of leadership.
Chris: Yeah. I mean, the flip… the flip of it is, right? We’re looking at the org and saying we’re… it’s mind-boggling that things are getting done, but the… a lot of stuff is getting done.
Gina: A lot of stuff is getting done.
Chris: Right? And… I think that that is… that is inspiring in its own way, that we… the, just the sheer amount of business that we are moving through the pipes in this world is impressive. And if we can help more organizations do that, and do it better, and do it more efficiently, and put better experiences out into the world, I mean, that’s the holy grail. That’s what we’re going for.
Gina: That’s right. That’s right. It is… part of the beauty of working with really big companies, and working in a big company now, is that every once in a while, you know, we don’t have our hands in everything anymore… every once in a while, you know, you’re at an all-hands, you’re in a meeting, and you see something, and you’re like…
Gina: That’s awesome! What the…
Gina: Where did that come from? Who was the leader that made that happen? Interesting. I wanna get in on that. Right?
Gina: And just… learning those lessons from those really effective advocates, you know, in your org, or who you partner with in other orgs… you know, you just go to the buffet. What do they do? “Oh, that worked really well. This is interesting. How did you make this decision?” Right? And you put your leadership plate together. “You know, I’m gonna try this. I’m gonna…”
Chris: Your leadership plate.
Gina: Or, “I wanna get with this person.”
Gina: I find myself really drawn to those leaders who are, like, moving and shaking and getting stuff done. And not only to emulate them, just to be near them.
Gina: And… how do I work with you, and see how you operate, and how can we be stronger together?
Chris: One hundred percent. That’s right.
Gina: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris: What I’m picturing is that somebody is listening to this, and they have a burning story that they’re like “I also have this happening! What can I do? I need to reach out and say… say it to somebody.” We have an answer.
Gina: I love the burning stories. I love burning stories. And we have a relatively new email address.
Chris: It’s catalyst@NTTdata.com. We need to… we need to update our tattoos. We had firstname.lastname@example.org tattooed.
Gina: We did. We had email@example.com. It’s now catalyst@NTTdata.com.
Gina: You and I still get every message…
Chris: We do.
Gina: …that goes to that email address. We want to hear from you. We want to hear from those leaders that are figuring out the edges of their sphere of influence, who are building it up, who are pushing and expanding it, and maybe sometimes getting knocked back. That happens.
Chris: That happens.
Gina: That’s humbling, and it kinda stinks. That happens, and that’s part of the game.
Gina: If you’re not getting set… if someone’s not saying no to you, you know, on a fairly regular basis, you’re not asking for enough. That’s my…
Gina: (Laughs) That’s my… that’s my guiding principle.
Chris: Love it.
Gina: Tell us about it! Reach out. Catalyst@NTTdata.com. Still getting used to this new name, Chris. But we’re… it’s… it’s all about change.
Chris: We’ll get there.
Gina: It’s good change for the better. We’re getting there.
Chris: Change for the better. No way… no way through… no way out but through.
Gina: That’s right. That’s right. Thanks, Chris.
Chris: Thanks, Gina.
Gina: Let’s get back to work. Thanks.
Chris: Bye, y’all.
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