Master Moves™

Mobilizing a Workforce

Susan, a young manager and a student in our leadership development program, took on a major challenge at her Fortune 10 company. Three senior executives had failed. With no staff or budget, Susan led 500 engineers - who didn't report to her - from entrenched opposition of a new technology to enthusiastic support and implementation.

She was part of an Advanced Technology Group. Her boss had resigned, upon learning he would be held responsible for engaging the mainframe maintenance group - those 500 highly experienced engineers - with the technology of the future: the personal computer.

In the early 1990s, still the dawn of the PC revolution, mainframe engineers and developers resisted PCs. A huge departure from 'big iron' that dominated the computing landscape, engineers viewed PCs as toys - not to be compared with the gargantuan computing muscle of mainframes.

Susan, however - a fascinated student of technology - could see that this change had to happen for the company to remain competitive. She was too junior to have been assigned the task, but if we could invent a way to engage the engineers with PCs, she'd step up and volunteer.

She was especially interested because of a core personal value: she is committed that everyone in the workplace be honored. She believes that everyone has something important to contribute. Susan was disturbed at the way the engineers had been treated as executives tried to get them motivated. This core value made her the perfect person to implement the approach we designed.

She knew what had been done before: videos demonstrating that the future of technology was in PCs, along with senior managers meeting with engineers and threatening that those who didn't get into step would face losing their jobs. The engineers were not concerned about being fired. They knew that the company could not run without them. But the threats had left them angry and skeptical. They were certain that senior management didn't know what they were doing. They were willing to wait out what they viewed as the current management nonsense.

We used the Master Moves™, beginning with concerns and desired outcomes of all parties. For the engineers it was professional pride. For senior management it was technology transfer. For vendors it was to have their products chosen by the engineers. For Susan it was getting good people feeling honored and respected and able to contribute. A Path of Least Action soon resulted.

Susan approached each of the workgroups in the IT maintenance organization, often in the context of a brown bag lunch. She told the engineers in each group that she had the task of assessing how well the proposed new hardware and software might meet the needs of business users. She believed that the engineers knew more about users' real needs than anyone else Ñ most of them had worked closely with business units for 20 years. She asked for their help assessing the new technology. Specifically, what value could each vendor provide?

She invited the engineers to the 'Oasis Room' - a facility equipped by prospective vendors with the hardware and software they recommended. The room was open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. She offered to meet them there to discuss their assessments, or to set up any phone or personal discussions convenient for them.

The Corporation provided the room. The vendors provided the new hardware and software and their own engineers to demonstrate and explain their products. With no budget and no staff, and no authority over the people involved, Susan got nearly 100% participation. The engineers found the request irresistible. Along the way, of course, the engineers discovered that PCs could be quite useful. The Advanced Technology Group gained many insightful assessments, which they put to good use, and made sure the engineers know they had done so.

The engineers had an exciting new turn in their careers. A few left who weren't up to the challenge. The organization enjoyed the benefits of almost 500 experienced engineers focused on the new technology. Susan got a big promotion, and remained with the organization for a number of years.

The Master Moves™ yielded the solution to this corporate impasse in approximately 20 minutes.

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