When you have a new and exciting idea that will improve the way your organization operates, it’s natural to want to run with it and implement it as soon as possible. Change can unfortunately be slow and painstaking in many organizations, and too often, good ideas become tangled in red tape and abandoned.
Challenging the status quo can be a bumpy road, but it’s important not to give up before you’ve even started. With hard work and perseverance, you can save your brilliant idea from ending up in the trash can.
1. Get straight to the point.
When you are proposing an idea, whether it’s in a meeting, a PowerPoint presentation, a casual conversation or an email, be concise, straightforward and clear about your message. No one wants to sit through a rambling presentation or read a verbose proposal. Lead with your main idea and make it easy for your audience to find your reasoning, supporting evidence, action steps and goals (read more about tips on communication skills).
Your proposal should include a written component that highlights the major points of your idea. Even if you are presenting verbally at a meeting, pass out a one-page sheet that helps your audience follow along and stay focused. Formatting is important; people like bulleted or numbered lists, short paragraphs, white space and headers and bolded phrases that emphasize important ideas.
2. Get others on board.
Challenging the status quo is much easier when you have support from other members of your team. Before you take your idea to the larger group, consider running it by a few other people you think will be good allies. Pitch your concept to them and invite them to ask questions, give feedback and bring up possible obstacles. If they see holes in your argument, chances are, others in your organization will point out the same issues later on. Tighten up your proposal, get buy-in from your initial panel, then open it up to the rest of the team.
3. Welcome debate and discussion.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes debate and disagreement can actually be good for challenging the status quo and guaranteeing the success of your idea. Harvard Business School professor John Kotter argues that conflict gets people’s attention, gives you an opportunity to defend your idea and can eventually win active support:
Worst case scenario, the idea does die. But if it is a nontrivial idea, it will almost certainly need a lot more support than a non-enthusiastic group voting 51% in your favor. My research and experience show that proposals approved in such a way often die a slow and very painful death…
Good ideas need active, engaged support for a considerable time until they reshape how we think about and do things for the better. To make positive, lasting change, you need to energize people, and at a deep enough level to make buy-in — then ultimate implementation — achievable. And you need conflict to accomplish that.
Encourage debate, take on the naysayers and fight for your idea. If you have a viable proposal, you will find supporters and make your idea a reality.
What suggestions do you have for implementing change in your organization? Share your comments.
Learn more about Employee Development Systems, Inc.’s Challenging the Status Quo for Continuous Improvement course.