Making a Case for Change

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to the failed attempts at implementing an initiative you feel passionate about. You are certain it’s going to bring positive change in a variety of ways, but can’t seem to get others on board. You’ve all but given up on your noble crusade. Fear not brave change-agents. Below are tactics that can help you get buy in with upper management and move you toward responsibilities that don’t make you want to run for the door at 5 pm on the dot.

Do your research.

The biggest mistake you can make is stating a claim without backing it up.  According to Sean Ryan in Harvard Business Review, people have something called a “negativity bias,” which means we’re more risk averse than risk taking. “The average person requires a gain twice the value of the potential loss,” so hedge your bets by being over-prepared. Show, don’t tell, why you think your initiative is important to the future of the company.

Know Who You’re Talking To

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People famously wrote “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Rather than thinking about it from your perspective, put yourself in their shoes and frame the issue to address their motivations and concerns.  Is this person only trying to hit the bottom line? If so, is there a way to frame this as a revenue generating opportunity? Are they worried about competitive forces? If so, can you use your initiative as a way to differentiate and get ahead of those competitors?

You’ll Need Back Up

Teamwork makes the dream work, people. As cliché as it sounds, this holds true when you’re trying to sell something to upper management. On top of showing your boss you have support, gathering expertise from multiple areas strengthens your ideas. Don’t just ask your work husband for help, recruit those with influence that are most likely to get on board with your idea. Map out your network and organize it into four categories as shown below and determine your game plan to get the key potential supporters on board.

Two birds meet one stone

The other night, I decided to go out rather than go to the gym. We ended up dancing for a few hours and I woke up sore – no workout necessary! You know how good it feels to accomplish more than one goal with one action. So does your boss. Chances are, if you think your idea is worthy of your boss’s attention, it satisfies a greater need that they are already trying to address. This is called “bundling”. According to Ashford and Dutton, by bundling, “a seller taps into resources and communication currency the other issue may have.” In other words, your company wouldn’t have to start from square one. If there are already efforts in place that you can apply to your initiative, use those to your advantage.

Have a great idea? Believe you could inspire change in your organization? Stop. Take a deep breath. You can do it, but you need a plan. Sit down and evaluate who you need to convince and how you can back yourself up both with facts and with people. Think about your organization’s existing initiatives and how you can pair yours with your boss’s priorities. The more prepared you are and the more passion you bring to this endeavor, the more successful you’ll be. You got this.

This blog was inspired by a class assignment developed for the Management Individuals and Organizational (MGMT612) course lead by Dr. Reut Livne-Tarandach.

Written by Alison O'Shaughnessy

Ali is a 2018 MBA from the Center of Sustainable Business Practices. She spent most of her career working in digital marketing for non-profit clients in New York City. After graduating, she plans on combining her expertise in marketing with her passion for socially and environmentally responsible business practices by working for a company that shares her altruistic values.