Tips for Making a Case for Change

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
These are tips submitted by people who are out there leading change inside organizations.  ____________________________________________
Is a change needed? 

Sometimes there can be agreement that “change is needed” without an understanding of what to change or where to start. I was faced with this situation as an internal consultant. A good place to start is to get consensus on the answers to four basic, but vital, questions:

  • What is the aim of our organization (i.e., the purpose we are trying to serve)?
  • Who are our customers?
  • How do they benefit from our products and services?
  • How well are we doing at satisfying our customers needs?

The process of reaching consensus on the answers to these questions helped leaders and top management agree on the organization’s value to others, and served as a basis for identifying change possibilities. Agreeing on how customers benefited from products and services, and how well customer needs were currently being met, provided a sound basis for deciding which change initiatives to start to adopt and their measures of success.

Phil Landesberg
Mile2Go Seminars and Consulting

A Picture Sometimes Really Is Worth a Thousand Words

Our managers had been worried for some time that one of our key departments had costs that were out of line. For several years we had talked with employees, written notes, and, in general, flooded them with data. Nothing seemed to work much until we put our cost position on a very simple to read chart that showed benchmarking data put us at a significant disadvantage to our industrial peers. We had the chart put on a 3′ x 6′ mural and called all of the managers from the department together with no notice and simply said, “Here we are today; it is not acceptable and it is up to you to lead the change.” We then immediately followed up with small group meetings and again used the mural as the only visual aide. It was like a light bulb went off in the organization. Everyone finally recognized the same problem; they “got” it. Once we agreed on the problem, the solutions began to flow quickly.

Plant Manager

You can’ t motivate without WHY

Effective communications is at the core of successful change initiatives. A fundamental element of any message that announces a change must be the answer to the question, Why is this change happening?

People won’t tune into your communication about what’s changing if they don’t understand why it is changing. Unfortunately, most change messages omit a rationale resulting in confusion, which in turn churns up skepticism, cynicism, and resistance. Regardless of the magnitude of change, you have to communicate a reason why a new procedure, work system, or organizational change is required.

As for the best means to deliver a message of WHY, choose personal communication channels over impersonal ones. Face-to-face explanations of change, that permit a two-way conversation to ensue, are far more effective than an email message or poster on a bulletin board. People will appreciate that you made the time to talk over the WHY, as well as the WHAT, of the change. And, while they may not initially agree with the change, they will respect you for taking the time to talk and listen.

Linda Dulye, organizational communications expert, president of L.M. Dulye & Co.,

Speak up! – Best Practice for Presenting Issues to Management

When you are in a position to present an idea or issue to upper management, here are six questions to ask yourself as you prepare your presentation:

  1. What the issue is – concisely, but get to the heart of the problem
  2. Why it is significant – what is at stake
  3. What the ideal outcome is
  4. Summarized background information (this may be provided, but not briefed)
  5. What you have done to this point, and what options you are considering
  6. What help you want from management

What these six bullet points do is help you hone in on the elements of the issue that will be crucial to the listening audience of more senior managers.

(From Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (2002 Berkley Books)

Anastasia Walsh
Two-Way Communications Program Manager
Lockheed Martin

Making a Compelling Case for Change

It sounds simple, but making a compelling case for change demands honest and open communication. Most people are reasonable if you lay out the goal/your case and invite input. We often fear others’ reaction to change. As a result, we “spring it on them,” and stand back to wait for the fallout. Although resistance to change is the norm, a process that allows for consistent communication throughout the entire process is rare. Remember, stakeholders range from customers to your receptionist. If you allow for brainstorming from all levels of your organization (and outside), and clearly set expectations for how the ideas will be used (or not), you will find that resistance is lowered and, as a side benefit, you may gain innovative ideas from unexpected places.

Melanie Audette
Vice President, Indiana Grantmakers Alliance



© 2009 Rick Maurer – Rick uses his Change without Migraines™ to advise organizations on how to lead change effectively. He is author of many books including Beyond the Wall of Resistance. Recently, he created the Change Management Open Source Project, a free resource for people interested in change in organizations.