[b]First, I apologize for the lengthy post, but it is a good example of a bad example of influence.[/b] I appreciate any comments you may have. Also, you can check out my blog about my experiences in leadership and project management at http://innerleader.blogspot.com.
My favorite leadership guru, author, and speaker John Maxwell states leadership very simply. He says, "leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less." This principle forms the foundation of his second law of leadership: the Law of Influence. Last week I came hard up against this law when I tried to lead a mini-revolt against the "positional" leadership of the project in which I am currently engaged.
I, and many others believe the leadership of this project is more interested in their own agenda than trying to produce the best product possible--a new enterprise-level financial/procurement/inventory software system. I firmly believe that those who will be using the system should be involved early and often in the design of the system. The "positional" leaders do not. They believe the more you involve the users the longer the system will take to develop. Actually, I agree...in part. Yes, involving the users in the design will take longer up-front, but will pay big dividends in the long-run. First, the users, having been involved will be getting a system they want and agreed to; second, we developers will spend less time on the back-end re-working a system the users do not want and does not meet their business needs.
So, I tried to "influence" others on the development team to push the leadership into accepting more input from the users. On this project there are three departments: the one I work for, a second department that does very similar work to my department but is located in Pennsylvania, and a third department that does not work anything like mine and which is also located in Pennsylvania. I was very successful with the members of my sub-team, I was mildly successful with members of the sub-team in the second department. I was not at all successful with the sub-team that works in the third department. Furthermore, all the members of the third sub-team work for managers in the third department who are also the project leaders.
When I pushed the issue of involving more user input, my sub-team worked with me. The second sub-team said they were with us, but in a teleconference they remained silent. The third sub-team and the project leadership were adamantly against me and my sub-team. Additionally, all the users who agreed with me and appreciated what my team was doing did not back us up! As a result, my team came out looking like fomenter's of rebellion and our senior level departmental manager was dragged into the fray. In the end my team was taken to the "woodshed" and told to "cease and desist" all activities related to the issue of user input.
At first I was angry and frustrated with my management, the project leadership and the users and other sub-teams that did not back us up. My sub-team and I commiserated for a while. But then I realized, I had broken the Law of Influence. I tried to get people with whom I have little or no influence to back me up; I thought they would because it was the right thing to do. However, as Maxwell says, people do not buy into the leader's vision until they buy into the leader. Even though it was the right thing, nobody but those who know me best would follow me.
I still think I am right, and all project management books and seminars back me up; but that means nothing to the Law of Influence. I should never have attempted to get the rest of the project team to push the project leadership into seeing my point of view--at least not until I had significant influence with the team members.