Getting Management to Support Change

How do you get management to support change? At the risk of being overly simplistic, it starts with WIFM — What’s In It For Me? What are their goals? Of course, different leaders will have different goals, based on their function. The CFO tends to focus on reducing expenses and reducing risk. The VP of Sales and Marketing wants to increase revenue and/or market share. The VP of Operations wants to improve operating performance, whatever that means for their industry. And the CEO is probably focused on return to owners/shareholders.

So how will your change help them accomplish their goals? If you can bring hard data, they’ll be more apt to listen. Any numbers you present need to survive the “x2” test – corporate leaders automatically cut the proposed benefits in half and multiply the proposed expenses by 2 in their heads, because people proposing ideas tend to overstate the benefits and understate the costs. Your idea needs to still look good after they do that math.

Secondly, if you can have a low-cost, low-risk, quick-results trial run, they’ll be more likely to say yes. “Let 2 people try this, no more than 2 hours per week, for a month; we’ll need $500 for training” is much more attractive than “We’ll need to invest $250,000 to get started; we hope to have the first results in a year.”

Unfortunately, most leaders, and most staff, are overwhelmed with too many top priorities already. People are stretched so thin that they are not able to take on one more project, no matter how compelling your idea is. So your idea has to be more compelling than the next one in line, which will be started when one of the current projects gets finished, unless you can figure out how to not require any time from people in the organization.

Gary Langenwalter

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