The Whining Corporate Types
A Special Story Featuring Laureen MartelPatrick Lannigan - Summer 2004
Weíve all heard them. Techies whining about marketing. The marketing department whining about sales. The sales department whining about techies. Oh yes, itís a cyclone of a disease that can whip any small or large company down the dysfunctional sewer drain. Why is it always the other departmentís fault?
Take "techies" as an example. At most companies I've worked at there is a certain segment of techies who scoff at sales and marketing people. Too bad. Gates was a techie and a sales person. Ellison, Jobs, same thing. Even Linus Torvalds, of Linux fame, is a sales person of sorts. He "sells" concepts. He "sells" the way thing should be put together. One thing is for sure. Techies who deride marketing and sales people could never be considered CEO material.
Generally speaking, the most successful techies at any technology company, are the ones that can "traverse" the various departments and, to some degree, understand the constraints and challenges that these other departments face. They're the ones that get to know the other department's "language" so they can communicate more effectively.
I'll never forget Laureen Martel, a techie-turned-salesperson I worked with at Progress Software. She landed an account (name omitted) that she had no business landing. Our competition had it all over us. In terms of a feature list, I would have ranked our technology at 4th or 5th in a lineup of 10 vendors. Yet Laureen persisted. She met with the developers nearly every day, with this question or that. She worked with the prospective customer through endless hurdles they put in front of Progress. To make matters more challenging, the techies weren't her only hurdle. She had to work with legal, accounting, and the service department - before "the deal" could be done.
Thankfully, Laureen persisted. To this day I don't know if the developers really appreciated how important that deal would be for the future of Progress Software, or whether they knew that her sale paid for their PC upgrades that year. This deal turned out to be more than "a deal". That "unnamed" company, over the course of the next five years, bought millions more from Progress Software. Thank you Laureen.
So next time you're about to whine about that other department do yourself a favour. Imagine working in that department. Switch jobs for a few weeks.
My battle-cry is simple: have respect for what other departments do. If there is (God forbid) gross incompetence in that other department, then work to expose it, but do it in a way that it becomes self-evident to others without you having to say a word.
I don't believe "the goal" is a love-in per se. We need tension. We need conflict. Even the occasional hissy-fit isn't necessarily a bad thing. Jobs, Gates, and Ellison had their share. There would be no Macintosh if it wasn't for Jobs acting like a spoiled brat. While not appearing so at first, I believe the direct in-your-face approach is much healthier than the kind of passive-aggressive behind-the-back whining I've seen.
© Patrick Lannigan, 2004
Email Patrick Lannigan at lannigan at gmail dot com for more information
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