Written goals, objectives, presentations, statements in shareholder reports, and anything else you can point to, touch, print, carry, is nice, but will not push you up the corporate ladder faster than those around you. If you want to climb faster, make more money, and acquire more power than those around you competing for the same few higher-level positions, then you must learn that little-known art that will enable you to dig deeper, and observe better than anyone you are competing with.

Granted you can learn by bumping into barriers and obstacles and getting cut and bruised, and with that goes a very high degree of risk. This is called the “Univrsity of hard knocks”. Within an organization, learning by taking courses at the University of Hard Knocks may puff up your chest, stroke your ego and give you and your family a lot of stories with high entertainment value, but you’ll be disadvantaged compared to those who learn the following insider techniques of mastering the art of revealing the unwritten rules to success within any company, yours included.

  • The first rule seems simple on the surface, almost obvious: Assume that what you see, hear and read, is the public face, not the reality within the company. Seek the information that has not been made public.
  • Discover by thinking like an investigative reporter: What has actually been done or achieved? How was it actually done? Who is the biggest contributor to the effort of getting it done? What resources did they have with which to do it? How did they get those resources? What was the cause or the trigger that not only initiated it, but what influences along the way enabled it to be done?
  • Look for the influences, the stakeholders, the various authorities that were enlisted or that enabled progress. What were the pockets of authority, of power, that weighed in, were enlisted, or were canvassed?
  • Seek the cooperatives that enabled the program or progress. Which colleagues of the responsible party were most helpful? How did that relationship develop and how is it continuously nurtured?
  • Did any of the information or parties that was made public play an important role? Sometimes it does, but often it plays a much smaller role than what people assume.
  • What people popped up along the way to test the responsible parties? What people stepped in front of progress and tried to act as barriers to slow, limit or even derail progress? What techniques were used to handle and defang those snakes?
  • What barriers, or what you considered to be barriers, were simply ignored. Not all barriers are show stoppers. Do those barriers arise often? Is it standard practice to resit those barriers, or just work around them? Have any of those barriers been career damaging or just window dressing for others who were merely posturing? Who does the posturing?
  • When work is delegated, does that mean completely hands off? Or, is it expected that delegation  is done with follow-ups, tests, updates, meetings, etc. And, if so, with whom?
  • When the work is dependent upon other functions or departments, what official and unofficial tools or techniques are used to evaluate other functions during and after project hand-offs by those responsible for projects and who climbed the ranks fastest?