There are many ways an idea for a change can hit you. It can happen during an intense brainstorming session or on a Friday evening as you relax with a glass of whiskey. 🥃
But whenever that magic spark goes off in your head, it’s pretty exciting. Your grey cells are already buzzing on what the next steps should be! You can’t wait to run it past your closest colleague at work, your best friend who never fails to call you out when you are bullshitting, and your mentor who is your sounding board and the voice of reason.
And what do you know! They love it too.
And then it dawns on you. You now have to sell this change to your boss. You start thinking about all the supporting data you can find, the pros and cons, and how to get buy-in from all the stakeholders.
The idea of change at scale can be daunting at first, especially when you are pitching it to your management. How can you increase your chances of being heard? It is important to have a strategic approach when you’re selling the idea of change to your boss. And what’s better than a tip to get you started? Here are seven:
Create a Compelling Narrative
Stories are powerful. They strike an emotional chord to often inspire and provoke the listener. And that’s why storytelling is an excellent vehicle to deliver your idea of change.
“I have a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation” is not how compelling stories start. They start like this…
Every powerful story has a problem and a struggle. Will Marlin find Nemo? Will Harry finally defeat Voldemort? A problem is what keeps the audience hooked. You are pitching a change because of the problem. To spin a convincing story that will resonate with your boss, you have to address the problem first. That’s where the storytelling comes in.
When the problem is authentic and sits loud and clear in a compelling narrative, it involves and compels your listener to think of a solution. And when that happens, you’ve already earned your buy-in!
Ensure your Idea Aligns with the Organization’s Vision
Say your company has the vision to transition to subscription-led business over the next couple of years. How does your idea help in bringing this vision closer to reality? How does it help in driving org-wide adoption? It all boils down to what positive impact the change can create and how it can help the organization achieve its goals.
If your change idea doesn’t do all that, maybe it’s not that ‘big bang idea’ after all. Or at least not big enough to capture the attention of the management, because if it doesn’t align with the organizational vision, it’s likely to get deprioritized.
Paint the Bigger Picture
Most often when we present an idea, we get caught up in explaining the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of it. Turns out, that’s the easiest way to lose someone’s motivation.
Daniel H. Pink in his book ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ explains why. As humans, we need a purpose. The ‘why’ of things. When you explain the ‘why’, you have already begun to answer how your change idea impacts the bigger picture.
When you set the context with the big picture, it always helps if you are prepared with all the available data that validates your assumptions. You could also rope in an expert for their opinion. Moreover, using third-party analysis (like independent market research reports and statistics) will help you and the management see the change from an objective and rational perspective. Are there any leading indicators or trends in the industry that call for the change? Will the change help your organization gain a competitive advantage?
If the answer is yes, chances are that you have definitely piqued your boss’s interest.
Play the Number Game
Bosses love numbers. And rightly so. Your change idea might be great, sure, but do you know what kind of impact it will have on resources and budgets. Your boss will be equally interested in analyzing that impact as well. While you pitch the idea of change, you should also be prepared to answer questions about the numbers. What is the effort estimation for your change? What is the ROI? What resources will be required?
Or if you can, go one step further, and figure out how you can build a proof of concept or prototype. This strengthens your case further since you would now have numbers to back your assumptions.
And you’re sure to score brownie points for really thinking your change idea through.
Define Goals, Actionables, and Performance Indicators
You have explained the big picture. You have grabbed their attention with your thorough planning on how to bring your idea to life. Now it’s time to take the story to the next level.
This is where you get down to the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’. You can break down your change idea into measurable goals and work your way down to the actionable steps for each goal. And where there are goals, there are KPIs to help you track the progress.
Having this blueprint in place is important because it helps you build out the idea in your head into a concrete plan for them to believe in. It also elucidates what your boss and the team is committing to if they have decided to buy-in into this change project.
Make it Theirs
When you’re selling an idea, your aim is to make your listener believe it is as much their idea as it is yours. When your idea is internalized by the listener, they become a stakeholder. They share ownership.
Selling the idea of large scale change to your boss is no cakewalk because no matter how great your idea is. There is always a risk that it could get tangled in corporate red tape.
But when the management believes in the idea of change as if it were their own, then the roadblocks suddenly disappear. Walls come down. You’re ready to roll!
Use the 3-H Framework
A great way to summarize is to break down selling change is using the Head, Heart, and Hand (3H) framework.
- Head: Talk about the logical side of your change idea. All the numbers, data, and analysis come here.
- Heart: Focusing only on logic may lead to analysis-paralysis. Balance it out by empathizing with the listener and tweak the narrative to fit their perspective.
- Hand: And to finish it off, break it down to actionable next steps.
It’s important to cover all three bases, it’s a ‘three’ H framework after all. Missing out on one of these leaves your change narrative incomplete. More on that, here.
And there you have it! I hope this helps you win over your management team with your change idea and become the Champion of Change in your organization. We at Chargebee want to celebrate each one of you. Join us as we bring together the largest gathering of Champions of Change with more than 20 speakers on a single platform and tear into the stories behind the transformations.