Grandiose plans get sabotaged by small things. Many years ago, I was involved in what was going to be a deep and expensive overhaul of the entire IT system of a Research and Development division of a top global pharmaceutical company. The new system would entail seamless cross-collaboration, trans-continental, real time work and simultaneous, multi-country access to a library of information bigger than the entire Library of Alexandria, if there was one today. The usual users groups and focus groups were in place to extract ‘the customer needs’. And so we did. Number one customer need was: ‘Could you fix our laptops? They are so slow!’
Recently, in a Viral Change (TM) programme that I am leading in the US, we did an extensive cultural assessment with our usual focus groups, extracting behaviours and other cultural elements. The aim was culture. Ambitions were high. Number one insight that my team received was: ‘The new owners (my client) have taken away the free coffee!’. And this was driving low credibility for anything else we were trying to do. They seemed to be saying: ‘You want to talk about trust? I want to talk to you about my free coffee!’
Ignoring/neglecting the ‘small things’ is very dangerous. Many ‘small things’ have been traditionally left aside at the expense of the ‘big things’ because the thinking is: “surely this is secondary”. But it isn’t. Call it tyranny if you will but often, the ‘small things’ are in control.