Seven Weird Lessons From the Fortune 100

For the better part of eight years, I’ve been consulting for the Fortune 100. I thought I’d share some quirky truths I’ve learned along the way. Before I go into them, some clients don’t exhibit these truths, but they’re an exception.

The Data Is There

Most projects or product ideas that the company has will benefit from some data, and people will ask, “How do we get that data.”

Well, the data is already in the company. Nobody knows where it is or who to ask for it.

If you want to know customer demographics and purchasing behavior, it’s there. If you want historical data about the weather, it’s there. Large companies hoard data because they can and, in general, believe that it is valuable to have it.

Every Tool Is There

A familiar cry of teams I work with is the lack of access to their desired toolsets. They hear from managers that those tools aren’t supported or are out of policy.

But someone in that company has those tools and has approved them.

A typical example is using a Mac computer instead of whatever standard-issue laptop they give. If you look around, you’ll find whole groups who use Macs yet didn’t break any rules.

People Hoard Projects

Most projects benefit from a partnership with someone else’s software or data. Yet, getting groups to work together is sometimes impossible.

People hoard their projects like dragons hoard treasure.

A manager who oversees data, for example, will likely only see this partnership as what they stand to lose or give up, and in that frame of mind, will not help the partnership succeed or even prevent it.

You need to frame things as how you are adding to their treasure pile if you want the partnership to succeed.

Someone Already Did It

Most of the time, someone has already built the project or product a company is considering. Sometimes that same group has done it and forgotten.

Any large enough company has attempted every project idea already.

This duplication is insanely wasteful on paper, but remember how people hoard projects? Those other duplications may not be viable partnerships even if you find them. So it’s cheaper to build another one than to get that dragon to share their treasure.

Senior Leaders Are Good At This Game

Those senior leaders in the company got there because they know how to navigate these truths very well. One of my favorite things to witness in a large company is one of these leaders stepping into these situations and getting them moving again by making a call.

They know how to navigate the big mess of the company well.

Partner with senior leaders on these things. Their insight is priceless.

Storytelling is Critical

You might believe that good ideas win on their merits alone, but that is a relatively minor factor in large companies.

Whoever tells the best story wins.

Everyone is pitching projects and products. Most are duplications. Most involve getting a dragon to share treasure. Which one wins? The project with the best story is the one that wins.

So in large companies, marketing internally is critical to any perception of success.

There Are More

There are more truths I can share, but I hope you enjoyed reading through these hidden truths in large companies. I wrote them with a bit of humor because a lot of us live with them all day, so we should be able to laugh.

Either way, it’s always good to know what you’re up against.