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Making great things happen at work is about more than just being smart. Good ideas succeed or fail depending on your ability to communicate them correctly to the people who have the power to make them happen. When you are navigating an organization, it pays to know whom to talk to and how to reach them. Here is a simple guide to sending your ideas up the chain and actually making them stick. It takes three elements: the right people, the right timing, and the right way. Communications of the ACM, Does anybody listen to you? April 2017.

A programmer dropped by and showed me an automated system he had set up and how it was apparently running well. It was a method of propagating the status on issues, as reported in the many project status meetings, out to the programmers, testers and others who cared about those issues. It took the reported status and connected it with other information systems those other teams used. It was brilliantly done. It was also something I had been doing in my own projects for the last few years.

Eventually, this technique was standardized across all the projects. Ultimately, we started getting integrated status reporting tools from our vendors that did the same kind of things. Neither of us asked anyone’s permission to go and do what we had done. We just did it. In my case, I needed a way to keep everyone current on issues but I also wanted to cut down on the number of meetings we held to keep everyone aligned. In his case, he had used my system while supporting one of my projects and had later decided to do it on his own projects.

Also, see Meeting Madness? Don’t Do It!

So when I see recommendations as from the article above, I cringe. I’ve experienced more process and innovation support initiatives than I can keep track of. I’ve also never seen one that worked as well as just letting people innovate on their own while letting others adopt those innovations if they looked useful. Being able to innovate only after getting permission or having to find the “right” people with the authority to approve our idea, is just not very conducive to creative innovations, at least not in my experience.

See also: Support Bottom-up Innovations as it is Happening With or Without You. 

What can you try using your own initiative that might help your team to be more successful?

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