Maybe you’ve been there. You toiled for weeks on a large website and collaborated closely with your contact. You asked for and received approval every step of the way, went above and beyond to meet nearly impossible deadlines, answer and rebut requests that are not in the best interests of the client, and you practically nursed the contact along to prepare them for the brave new world of the Internet.
Presentation day arrives. Not including the time it took to perform the research and create the plan, it takes you 5 days to prepare the slides. You give your best performance.
The contact looks at you and says, “This is great, but I can’t approve it. When are you available to give this presentation to the committee so that we can move forward?”
The work you just performed wasn’t just the culmination of weeks of work, but years of accumulating knowledge – knowledge you had to dig up and pass along to your contact at key intervals, overcoming what you now assume was the decrees of the bureaucracy.
Now you know… you just know this committee will dream up silly requests born of ignorance and groupthink. They will ask that you break all sorts of conventions and usability rules because the boss thinks being different for its own sake is “cutting edge” and “best in class.” You’d better come prepared for anything, because you’ll likely have to deal with it.
Don’t look at your contact, Einstein. This is your fault.
First, you took the job without knowing who had approval authority, or worse, you knew all along that the person you were presenting to was just a liaison to the bureaucracy that controls the purse strings, and you didn’t find the source of the objections when you were addressing them with your contact.
Navigating around office politics can be tricky. Because they’re pervasive, there aren’t many companies that can afford to turn away paying clients because of such things. It’s a part of the job.
But the sooner you can identify the impact the bureaucracy has on the process, the quicker you can find the remedy and work more efficiently. When you do this, you can do better work for more clients for a longer period of time. When you fail, expect to chase your tail and use all of your time explaining and reexplaining the same things over and over again.
If you’re successful, the bureaucracy will take all the credit, but if you really have the client’s best interests at heart, you won’t have a problem with that. – Cam Beck