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  • 10.18.10

Word of the Day: “EVANGELIST”

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, how true. How true.

Jimmy Swaggart

“Buy my product!”

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I was prepping to share product development war stories with an NYU
MBA class, and I didn’t know where to begin. So I thought back to when I first
joined a skunkworks within a big tech company, and remembered how puzzled I was
with the peculiar language that circulated around the executive team. Fast
forward to today, and these concepts continue to be relevant to every risky or
transformative initiative I start up.

So, I’ve decided to start a “Word of the Day” series which describe
my personal take on essential concepts you too may encounter in your startup, business
development, or Lean Six Sigma team. It’s not gospel, so I welcome feedback or additional
ideas/words I ought to cover. The words are in no particular order of
importance.

Okay, boys and girls, heeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s–Ha! Ha! [Peewee
Herman laugh]–the Word of the Day!

“EVANGELIST”

This is a great word to start with because
every great product begins with great ideas. And great ideas originate from,
and are pushed into being by, change agents or “evangelists”. These guys don’t
just drink the Kool-Aid, they live it and truly believe in the innovation they’re
about to introduce.

What separates evangelists and change agents from the rest
of the flock, especially in large organizations where mediocrity and apathy
can hide, is the intangible fire they possess. Evangelists are willing to bet
their political capital and careers on that disruptive process change or that “bet-the-entire-line-of-business”
product. Evangelists will talk about their baby not just to customers, but to
their colleagues during lunch. They’re very persuasive, and they are absolutely
essential to getting buy-in from the rest of the organization. They are also
the ones to nail down the first couple of flagship customers. If at least a third
of your core team does not consist of evangelists, your initiative has a good
chance of failing.

Why? Because evangelists conduct themselves like mini-CEO’s.
And that’s what you need at a time when roles and responsibilities are still in
the process of being defined. You need go-getters, self-starters, and
learn-as-you-go people who are willing to put on different hats rather than
expect to delegate to an assistant. Evangelists get their hands dirty. They’re
just as likely to crunch through a spreadsheet as to fly to a customer in
frickin’ Des Moines to close a deal (not that there’s anything wrong with Des
Moines! Well, OK, maybe). Only an evangelist can convince a grocer to buy
little computers to be installed on top of shopping carts from a company that’s known for selling
cash registers.

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Further, evangelists will help you to recruit other strong
talent. The intensity of evangelists should scare off ho-hum 9-to-5’ers, and
attract the A-team your startup or big change initiative will need, especially
in the formative first 6 months.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

How true. How true.

About the author

Jeff is a Certified Trained Lean Six Sigma Black Belt with a focus on finding new ways to apply technologies related to process improvement – situations which demand entrepreneurial thinking, a deep understanding of the financial impact of technology decisions, and collaboration with strategic partners. At IBM's Retail Emerging Business Opportunity Group, a corporate "startup", Jeff launched an SMB-focused business which later grew to account for 20% of EBO revenues worldwide.

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