We have all worked in large organisations and the larger they are, the more a knowledge of the internal politics and unofficial communications systems is of value in surviving and making progress.
For people outside the organisation who are trying to get things done within the organisation, the situation is twice as bad because they not only have to figure out the official hierarchy and communication channels, but also the unofficial ones.
Most good sales people develop an instinct for how to learn the politics of a client organisation, but once they get beyond a certain size it is very difficult to be properly effective unless you practically live in the client organisation and this is particularly so if your interaction with the client needs to be of a complex or widespread nature.In the 1960s IBM came up against this problem in a big way in trying to sell their large computer systems into large organisations, where the supply of a new system fundamentally affected dozens of sectors of both the official and unofficial decision making structures.
This is where Influence Mapping was born.
Multi level contact occurs quite naturally between two large organisations that do business together, but IBM was the first to see the value of managing and co-ordinating this interaction rather than just letting it happen and of doing a forensic job of mapping how all the interactions and influences worked. In particular they became masters at managing the interface between the techies, who understood the product and the management who did not, but had the decision making responsibility.
The legend that "You never get fired for buying IBM" was one of the bits of marketing genius that came out of this and successfully kept other suppliers with better, more innovative and cheaper products out of their market for a long time. Influence mapping is about mapping out the personnel terrain, understanding its dynamics and most importantly, identifying the key "opinion formers" and planting the seeds with them that will create the image of your supplying organisation that is required. Whether we have the time, patience and dedication to do this in our relationship with any other mega client and whether we can make it worth while is a matter for debate.
THE INFLUENCE MAPPING PROCESS
Defining the Influence Requirements
As regards a business advice practice for example, we need to write down a set of actions we want the prospect organisation to take, or opinions we want them to have, such as
Feeling that consultancy in general is added value to what they do.
Actively recommending us to clients
Recommending us to colleagues
Asking our advice etc
The Organisation Map
We need to build an organisation chart. It needs to show not only who reports to whom, but also what each key person is responsible for and how influential they are in influencing the delivery of our needs as specified in above.
We need to classify each individual (or sometimes group of individuals) as to the type of contribution theymake to the influencing and decision making process, in terms of things like
Are they a decision maker?
Or an Influencer?
Or an opinion former?
Or combinations of two or more?
What do they influence the most (in our field of view)
Whom do they influence significantly?
Who are they influenced by?
What formal decision making group(s) are they in, if any
What opinion forming group(s) are they in
Who are the informal group leaders, or opinion formers in their group
The Network Influence
It is rare that a complete set of everything is assembled at any one time. However, after a reasonable part of the above data is assembled, a pattern will emerge that can be mapped, showing in a dynamic form how decisions are made and influenced, how opinions are formed and "nodes" will appear showing where the key people and groups are that influence opinions, decisions and actions
A reasonably coherent network diagram, even if partly complete, will begin to show clearly where and on whom our efforts need to be expended to maximise the result we are looking for, what type of information we need to present to whom and how we have to manage the players with more minor roles.
Paul Green, FInstIBI - Director | Thames Valley Business Advisors Limited | (e) firstname.lastname@example.org | (w) http://www.tvba.co.uk |