Assess How Well You Make a Case for Change

Think about a major change that didn’t go well. (Perhaps it never met its intended objectives. Maybe it went way over-budget or over-time. Perhaps it took lots of extra energy just trying to put out fires along the way.) And identify one critical stakeholder (it could be an individual or a group) who never seemed to get on-board.

Score each of the items below on a scale of 1 to 5.

1 = we didn’t do that at all
3 = we did a little of that
5 = that’s exactly what we did


1.  Why before How_____

People need to see why something is needed before they will be interested in what you want to do or how you want to do it. The task of making a case for why is often neglected at a great cost. Making a case that a change is needed has nothing to do with your vision or plan. It only should focus on helping people see (and feel) that the status quo is no longer working.

2. You Provided an Emotional Reason Why This Issue Might be Important to This Stakeholder?_____

Often we try to make a case by providing lots of data. Information is good, but it’s not sufficient. People need to feel that something new is needed. Like the surprise you might feel when you step on the scales after a holiday vacation.

3.  Made it Personal_____

You avoided the trap of creating a one-size-fits-all presentation and tailored your message to this specific stakeholder.  For example, you may have avoided lots of technical IT for an audience made up of non-tech types. You also considered how that stakeholder likes to take in new information. Lots of detail or just main points? Presentation or conversation? Large group or one-on-one?

4.  You Had Credibility with This Stakeholder_____

Most of us don’t even want to listen to ideas presented by people who we don’t trust to deliver this message. It often makes sense to consider who is the best person or team to make a case.

5.  You Listened to Them_____ 

People are not mushrooms under rocks just waiting for you to shed light on their dim existence. People have thoughts of their own. It often makes sense to be willing to be influenced by their thinking on this issue.

6.  We Knew We Had Made a Case_____

Often organizations present a few slides that cover why something new is needed and then move directly into “and here’s how we are going to do it.” It is far better to create a feedback loop that lets you know how well you made a case.


Discussing the Scores

If you chose a stakeholder who never got on-board, you probably found that most of the scores were low. For many years, I have heard leaders introduce new projects. They often do poorly in all of these areas.

The good news is that you can learn from these scores. Ask yourselves:

  • Do these scores provide a window into how we generally introduce change in our organization?
  • What would it look like if we were to rewind the tape and use these six points when we engaged that stakeholder?
  • What can we generalize from these scores?
  • Choose one stakeholder whose support you need (or will need soon) and brainstorm a strategy that addresses the six items listed in this assessment.

Next Steps:

You might have gleaned all you need just from completing this assessment. If so, I hope that you’ll apply what you learned right away. But, if you would like support on ways to make a case that a change is needed, I invite you to take the Making a Compelling Case for Change webinar. And it’s free.

If you have questions after you attend the short webinar, please give me a call. 703 525-7074 or

©2013 Rick Maurer

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