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There I was at work, with a client who wanted to add three staff members to my project team. Groupthink in my organization enabled a situation where that wasn’t going to happen, and that was acceptable. My option was to tell my client it was impossible: they couldn’t take part on this important project. I was unable to expand my team to include three skilled, motivated staff members who would benefit the overall project.
We needed to achieve the impossible. We needed to perform a miracle.
Those staff members needed access to my company’s information systems to meaningfully take part on the team. Systems access requests required an Employee ID (EID) number. Since they weren’t employees of my company, my client’s employees didn’t have EID numbers.
“No number, no access.”, said the system administrator. “No exceptions.”**
Everyone Who Said It Couldn’t Be Done Was On The Same, Small Team
I escalated the opportunity to my boss, who said, “It’s impossible”. She told me about my co-worker, who had been unable to add another customer’s team members to his project. She suggested I check with him.
He confirmed my boss’s assertion, then he referred me to a member of the Operations team.
Our Operations team member said they were right: she’d told them both it was impossible.
Groupthink was in place.
I Called BS On Groupthink
I was not yet willing to believe our company had no way to enable customers to take part on project teams, at no cost to us, especially when the customer offered and requested that participation.
This was a successful company.
Companies become successful by using all available resources and making their customers happy (unless they have a near-monopoly).
The company was not a monopolist.
We saw an opportunity to make a customer happy and use resources for free, yet it was “impossible” to do either.
There’s Always An Exception; I Kept Looking
I did a quick search on our intranet.
In the first page or two of results was a document indicating there were non-employee users of some computer systems. However, it didn’t explain how or why.
I contacted a manager in the department that published the document. He referred me to a policy that authorized auditors, directors, and outsiders to have systems access with approval by a Vice President.
I filled out the handful of blanks of the form and had the VP sign it.
Our customer team members had access in under a week.
Consider And Act
- What “impossible” hurdles are you facing?
- Who says these hurdles are impossible, and what evidence is there?
- Where’s the incentive to achieve the impossible, and for whom?
- How far outside your zone of influence or comfort have you gone to overcome the problem?
- Who is rewarded, and who is hurt, by continuing things as they are?
- What are the costs of achieving a breakthrough?
- What impact is groupthink having on the situation? Are you sure?
- Are you ready to perform a miracle, or is status quo good enough?
- What’s the safe choice, what are the risks, and for whom?
- What values are reflected in the status quo, and what values would be reflected in the case of a breakthrough?
- Are you ready to achieve the impossible and perform a miracle?
- Live your values.
**All quotes in this article are not exact quotes when the conversations occurred. They are representative of the spirit and content of the conversations, as I recall them.