Even the most successful businesses can’t afford to stagnate, relying on the same technology, ideas and strategies that may have worked in the years past.
Upper management may be in charge of the big changes that alter the course of the business, but many of the day-to-day operations are in the hands of the employees that work hard behind the scenes.
Sometimes, it is these employees that come up with the best and most creative ideas, helping the business keep up with the times.
Your idea—one of those Eureka! moments or perhaps one that has been growing for months—may save the company thousands of dollars, tap into new markets or connect with customers in a new and exciting way.
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If you don’t know how to make change happen within your organization, consider these five tips below.
1. Understand What You Want
Whatever the idea, it must be clearly developed and realistic. Simply saying, “We should use a new social media platform,” for example, isn’t enough: which social media platform? Who would be in charge of it? And, most importantly, will it make a difference for the business?
Ask yourself enough questions about your idea to make sure you understand it first. You may even decide that the idea may not be worth the time or effort to pitch.
2. Test the Waters
Any idea you bring to upper management should first have strong support—by your coworkers, namely those who would be affected by the change, and any senior members of the organization who will have a hand in approval.
- Get coworker support: Coworker support is vital, as change must to be supported by numbers. Speak with coworkers about the idea (leaving out the specifics) to see if they would be on board with the change.
- Get senior-level support: Set up a meeting with your direct supervisor and, if possible, another influential member of the organization. This is where you can begin selling your idea. Refrain from gossiping, bashing or otherwise complaining about the organization; engage with your supervisors productively to see if they show interest in your idea. This may even help you identify drawbacks you may have not seen or questions you must answer when you prepare your pitch.
3. Build Your Plan
A good idea needs a good plan. Before you set up the meeting to pitch your idea, examine all possible angles.
- Timeline: How long will this take to implement?
- Budget: How much will it cost?
- Requirements: What do you need from the company to make the change happen?
- Payoff: How will this help the organization?
The last angle is one of the most important ones in order to shape the plan. When you are pitching in the meeting, think about what the audience, in particular, will gain from your idea. If someone is in charge of budgeting for the department, for example, he or she may be interested in an idea that saves a lot of money and makes his job easier.
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4. Anticipate Resistance
If you’ve already spoken with your supervisor or another higher level executive of the organization, you may have already experienced some resistance to your idea. It’s not that upper management doesn’t want to hear your ideas or make changes within the organization; they simply have eyes on many different aspects of the business, and many ideas end up costing more than they are worth.
People often use one of four strategies, according to Buy-in: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down, to turn down an idea: delaying the approval process so that it remains forever in limbo, asking unnecessarily detailed questions, inciting anxiety or fear and personal attacks.
Anticipate these tactics before your meeting and have answers at the ready. Answer questions confidently and concisely—stumbling over words or rambling at length can make it seem like you don’t know the answers at all.
5. Give a Great Presentation
It is imperative to set up an official meeting to speak with upper management, as emails and phone calls are easily ignored. The meeting should involve your direct supervisor and any executives with whom you had previously spoken about the idea, in addition to key people in the organization that have a hand in the department.
If you’ve anticipated the resistance, you’ll be able to answer any questions and feel more confident with your presentation. However, don’t go overboard with numbers and data. Offering irrelevant information can confuse the attendees, which could make them feel ignorant for not understanding or obfuscate your idea.
In addition, answer all questions posed by the attendees no matter how silly or stupid the question may seem. Presenting yourself as confident and open to criticism only helps strengthen your idea.
Celebrate Your Success—or Keep Trying
If your idea isn’t approved, don’t be disappointed. It can be difficult to make change happen within an organization; you can only continue finding ways to make positive changes and work on your methods of getting your ideas approved.
If you do succeed, make sure to thank those that helped you get there. Change within an establishment takes a lot of work and follow-through, and often with the help of a lot of people. Show your appreciation for their belief in your idea—and keep bringing ideas to the table to keep the business moving forward.