I once worked at a company where one of the Middle Managers found a hair in every soup. Everyone was afraid to get him onto a project assessment crew as whatever was presented to him, he found reasons to put down the work and achievements of the development team. He was feared and strongly resented.
I was responsible for the development of lots of projects in this company, and so he had ample opportunity to kick my teams work into the gutters. Sure enough, he did not evoke feelings of joy and pleasure with me.
However, after a while, I saw a trend emerge. Every time my folks started a new project, they outlined the parameters, started working the business documentation and ran all kinds of simulations and numbers. Then Mr. Negative came for a first opinion and of course, he found plenty to bitch about. Then my team went back and reworked everything just to be hammered the next time all over again.
That being said, the more the project progressed, the less frequent and the less intense the bombardments of Mr. Negative became. Not because he grew tired or less willing to put us down but because he found ever less real reason to be obnoxious. The project got better and better because of his fire and brimstone. He unwittingly ironed out all the wrinkles while we were still in a pretty early phase of the project.
I spoke with my team, and we decided we were going to use Mr. Negative’s negative energy in order to make our projects unassailable. It just worked beautifully. Once we were at the point to face the board, after having endured his worst, the project was worked to a degree where it resisted any bombardment. Unwittingly, Mr. Negative turned out to be our most valued asset.
We never told him so in order to preserve his destructive zeal. We continued to play the role and tried our best to look annoyed whenever he lathered off. Secretly, however, we rejoiced.
Today, I have expanded this concept and even included “Devils Advocate” elements. If you ask me to, I will go over your business concepts, project plans, and strategic ideas, and probe them for weaknesses and inconsistencies and slip into your opponent’s shoes in order to see things from his perspective. Like Will Graham in “Red Dragon”, I will see things from the other sides vantage point even if this vantage point might be totally alien to you.
Upon your request, I will pick apart whatever is not nailed down. Once I am through with your project, you are ready to face hell and high water. And of course the most hostile of all board meetings.
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