A colleague of mine who works in marketing was relating her frustration to me. The engineering department was unwilling to relinquish ownership of a project. She understood the company was engineering-intensive. Of course the engineering department had come up with the idea that her department was now going to commercialize and, for that matter, make more profitable.
Yet the engineering department was reluctant to lose control of their “baby” to those non-techie marketing and sales types. Even though the commercialization of this engineering marvel would lead to profits offsetting and exceeding R&D costs.
You know the scenario. In fact, you may contribute to just a scenario within your company. C’mon. Admit it.
Pride of ownership is a difficult thing. Because ego is also tied into the equation, although we don’t like to admit it. And we are afraid that if we let our “baby” go, it will turn into something we don’t recognize. And we will lose control. So instead we think of ways to prevent our having to relinquish control.
Which really makes waves among our co-workers. And, by the way, turns what should be a win-win hand-off into an “us vs. them” drama. And perpetuates the status-quo.
How well do you play with the children at your company? With all due respect, I am not calling any of you children. You are highly trained professionals, whether you are engineers or marketers. For the purpose of this discussion, please follow along with my analogy.
Because this analogy not only covers how you get along with the various disciplines within your company, but also how you get along with your clients and, for that matter, with your vendors. You know, the children from the other playgrounds.
Learning to defer to the expertise of others and let them do their “thing” is a real challenge. Especially when we have had our way for so long within a company OR things have been a certain way for so long. We can’t imagine how things will turn out if we are not an integral part of the equation. So we try to interject ourselves back into the thick of things, without respecting the new process.
Which means we become a roadblock for process quality and throughput.
Did you ever think that what you were doing was creating a roadblock? And I don’t need to tell you that all your second-guessing often mis-interpreted as micromanagement.
Project hand-off doesn’t mean you walk away and wash your hands of the project. And yet, that’s exactly what keeps engineers too hands-on for too-long. They are concerned that the marketing and sales efforts will lead to a failure that the engineering department will be accountable for. In fact, engineers are concerned that hand-off to another engineering department (you know, the kids from the other playground) will be unsuccessful in the long run.
Project hand-off means you take a new seat at the table and serve a different collaborative role. This is where you become “all ears” and listen to the language of marketing, sales, business development and perhaps even an engineering department half-way across the globe. This is where you ask great questions (not the second-guessing kind) that allow you to provide even greater value to the team. This is the point where you gain a 360 degree perspective and return that perspective to the engineering department for the next round of new product development.
Do you know what kinds of questions to ask after hand-off? Do you know enough about what goes on post hand-off to formulate these questions?
Of course, more often than not, the hand off between engineering and marketing/sales is so contentious that no one is in the mood for further collaboration. Stop it! That’s not the way you play with the other children. No one was hired to be a solo act at your company.
It all boils down to a matter of trust between colleagues. Even if they aren’t all engineers, aren’t all MBA’s or aren’t all the same age as you are. Depending on where we sit at the table, we see the same things differently. So why not respect a project hand-off as an opportunity to learn from your colleagues?
They just may know what they are doing. After all.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.