Quick Thoughts on Swirl

An Unexpected Find

One thing about working for a Fortune 100 company is that there is going to be swirl, red tape and politics. Granted, this is true for smaller companies but the stakes are smaller and the separation between disciplines are grayer. The bigger the company structure the deeper the divisions between teams, it’s just the economy of scale rather then any malevolent corporate doing.

Well, for the last few months I’ve been working on the next generation of one of the Interwebs more trafficked sites. The idea was for my team to create the ideal “concept car” that would inform the current and future production versions. Our concept was more prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) then couture, still it needs about a year of back-end catch up before the vision can be realized. During the conceptualizing phase of the project we’ve tried to connect with as many of the teams that would be affected by the new site, find out what they needed, their concerns and when possible give them a glimpse at what we were working on. Our goal was to be inclusive and make sure we weighed the often divergent requirements we received. It’s a been a great experience and overall it’s moving alone surprisingly smooth considering all the pieces we’re juggling to keep everyone on the same page and this is where the swirl comes in.

We present a stage of the concept by walking the teams through the thinking and aim to clarify any questions or concerns that come up. Still, once we present a concept what becomes of it through the interpretations of the various teams is beyond our control. Team A translates it based on their needs and fears with no knowledge of Team B, who are doing the same thing. Add to this layers of management, where the concept is distilled and re-presented in a telephone game style of communication. Now add to that politics and territorial pissing contests. Give it a week and there’s chaos. Assumptions and fears swirl through the departments like it was a virus. The next few days are a mix of moving forward and attempts to reign in the swirl created by our latest concept presentation.

Swirl is the worst part of the process. As a team, we’d gladly walk the other teams through our concept but the reality is we can’t. They’ve got projects of their own to work on and we have an aggressive deadline in which to move from concept to production. Swirl is guaranteed, at least as far as I see it.

Comments

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  1. Deb,

    To avoid this kind of seemingly inevitable swirl, I think some sort of business process reengineering is required. Politics and agendas are a given, but if the overall structure of the process is revisited to foster a more collaborative, accommodating environment, we may be able to better succeed as a team.

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