Emergent Change: How to sell your idea up the org chart
As a young professional in a rotational leadership program, I am expected to drive change every day without direct reports or , in many cases, a budget. As an employee working for a Fortune 5 company, I completely understand the chief complaint from Generation Y: we are “bogged down” by corporate bureaucracy. All we want is an organization that is willing to change quickly with us and what we perceive to be happening in the business environment outside of our companies. However, many companies out there, including the one I work for, simply will not or cannot sustain the velocity of change we want while remaining the bastions of blue chip industry that are so important to the backbone of our economy. Their conservative nature, something our generation knows all about, is the very thing that has helped them weather the test of time.
So how do we deal with the frustrating bureaucracy of big corporations? We have to sell change, and not just any change, it has to be emergent change from within because most of us don’t have the authority yet to drive change from the top down. More often than not, we have to sell our change up the organizational chart. I was faced with this challenge recently when I needed to sell a new way to organize and search for files in our vast corporate intranet, outside of my regular rotational duties, with no budget. We ended up with a great Digg-like solution built on open source software and implemented by a team of people working outside their regular duties to push our company in a direction they believed in. This is how the team of young professionals I worked with sold the paradigm-shifting system to those who helped implement it and those who approved it:
1. Soften your Change
Demonstrate respect for the existing process, chances are good that you work with the person who created it and they are more likely to support you if you support them.
Always stay positive, even in the face of stiff opposition, if you get discouraged or abrasive you will only hurt your cause.
Befriend the gatekeepers: work closely with technical people, support staff and administrators. They will often act as informal character witnesses and feasibility advisers to the decision makers.
2. Make it Count
Innovate, THEN escalate, not the other way around. If you have a form of change you believe in, take the time to build a case and then present it to your manager and the manager above them as you gain traction. Starting this process too early when you haven’t developed your case guarantees your failure and the perpetuation of the “reckless” Generation Y stereotype.
Listen to your detractors so you can prepare your response. Too often we are so sold on our own ideas we ignore our detractors and then are blind-sided by them when it really counts (like during your proposal to upper management).
Innovate to the extreme, or management will just ask how your proposal is really that different from what already exists. I learned this the hard way after proposing a marginal improvement when I thought the organization couldn’t handle the extreme change. The C-suite executive I was presenting to immediately saw through this and challenged me and the team to take an innovative idea one step further.
3. Don’t stop!
Show your energy. The mantra I hear from managers we want to hire out of the rotational leadership program I am in is always the same, “We want your energy and your new ideas”. Don’t be afraid to show your excitement for the change you are driving, after all, if you aren’t excited about it why should they be?
Don’t let them rest. Once you have achieved your first success in driving change, don’t stop! Keep bouncing your ideas off the contacts you made driving the first change, that way they will be close by and ready to help with your next big proposal.
- Making Change at Work: Not taking ‘no’ for an answer - yworking.com
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