Every day, when we are hard at work, we come across a practice that could be streamlined to make our lives easier. Whether it’s addressing a simple improvement or an outdated process, the request can often fall upon deaf ears. Change is hard. There always seems to be some pushback. Before you give up your quest, put on your salesman hat and think about these seven ways to gain buy-in.
1. Recruit Champions Who can you approach to gather support for your idea before you pitch it to the decision-maker(s)? Think creatively about who you can approach and how you can gain their support. What matters to them?
- Program staff—does this help the grantees?
- Operations staff—does this save time and/or money?
- Auditors or legal counsel—can you get their confirmation that the change has no material impact on needed controls?
- Who else?
2. Pilot! Can you implement the change on a small scale to test it out? Perhaps on a specific program or a single grant round? A pilot or limited experiment is often an easier approval that recommending a permanent change. Set clear goals for the pilot and track results. Have a specific timeline for completion. If the pilot successfully streamlined your process, you’ll have specific evidence that it is a good idea to apply to the rest of your grantmaking.
3. Benchmark Is what you are trying to change common practice or used by similar organizations to yours? Check GMN resources, like the EPICenter (launching 2016) and reach out to colleagues through the GM Network to show that the change you are recommending has been successfully implemented in other organizations.
4. Use Data to Make Your Case Quantify the problem you are trying to address or improvement you plan to make. Some common indicators used to change practices are:
- Length of time a process/decision takes
- Translating that time into costs for both your organization and your grantseeker
- Number of people who “touch” the practice
See Assessing the How of Grantmaking for more indicators that you can use to quantify your practices.
5. Give the Problem a Human Face Are there real-life stories and examples you can share about the impact of the current practice or recommended change on your staff? On the grantseeker? Ask the people who will be impacted to tell their stories.
6. If at First You Don’t Succeed… If you’ve recommended a change in the past that wasn’t approved, make sure you get specific feedback why. It may be that you have the right idea at the wrong time. Keep an eye out for an opening to bring it back up and address the decision makers concerns. Is there new data available you can bring to strengthen the case? Are there more colleagues adopting the practice now? Have you had staffing or board changes that might bring different thinking to the issue. Are you seeing more discussion of the issue/solutions in industry press?
7. Ask for Forgiveness (if needed) Rather Than Permission There may be times when a change is small or its within your scope of responsibility and you can use your judgement to just make the change rather than having a formal approval. You can keep your colleagues informed about the change, but present it as “this is happening” rather than “can I do this?”