Number two on Zappos' list of core company values, right behind "Deliver WOW Through Service," is "Embrace and Drive Change." Here are a few excerpts from Zappos' stance on change management:
- Never accept or be too comfortable with the status quo because, historically, the companies that get into trouble are the ones that aren't able to respond quickly enough and adapt to change.
- We are ever-evolving. If we want to continue to stay ahead of our competition, we must continually change and keep them guessing. They can copy our images, our shipping, and the overall look of our web site, but they cannot copy our people, our culture, or our service. As long as embracing constant change is a part of our culture, they will not be able to evolve as fast as we can.
- Although change can and will come from all directions, it's important that most of the changes in the company are driven from the bottom up -- from the people who are on the front lines and closest to the customers and/or issues.
Your company may not be as innovative as Zappos. Few are. But that doesn't mean change can't move from the bottom up at your company as well. If you work on the front lines, closest to the issues, the most effective (and most likely) way to drive change is to select the proper champion. Read on to learn how.
Identifying your champion
Your role, along with the hierarchal structure of your company, will ultimately determine the best champion for transforming your idea into action. Organizational structures can vary widely. Some companies are sales-driven, while others are driven by operations, or product development. Some are relatively flat while others feature a myriad of layers between the CEO and entry-level employees.
To help you narrow down the list of candidates and select the best champion for your idea, here is a prioritized list of questions to ask yourself:
- Who has the power to make this change happen?
This question alone will narrow your list of potential champions to a handful of candidates who are manager level and above.
- Of these people, who will be motivated to promote this change?
Determine who stands to gain the most if your proposed change comes to fruition.
- Of those with power who are motivated to promote the change, who do I have the best access to?
By now your list of potential champions should be down to two to three people. If you have a good working relationship with one of the potential champions, it’s an easy choice. If not, think about the champion to whom you have the “warmest path.” For example, your direct manager (who is also on board with the change) may have a good working relationship with a potential champion.
Focus on making others look good
Now that you’ve selected the best person for this all-important job, it’s on to greasing the wheels of change. The goal here is to make your company better, not make a name for yourself. Besides, if your work consistently improves your company and those around you, upward mobility is inevitable.
Your champion is likely swamped so make it easier by taking the change management lead yourself. Be specific – use data whenever possible to support the case for change. Put yourself in your champion’s shoes. What information will your champion need to make the case to the next level (if there is a next level)? Try your best to make their case for them.
Transparency also helps. Making your champion aware of any potential downside upfront will lead to an evaluation step rather than a surprise roadblock that kills your case.
Momentum and emotion are your friends
Think like a salesperson, only more objectively. If you have the support of your entire department, use it to your advantage. Use stories to convey the need for change. For example, if you’ve lost two talented staff members who cited “inefficient, tedious processes” as their primary reason for leaving, be sure to convey how the loss has affected the department and how your proposed solution, whether it’s expense management software or something else, can create a happy ending to this story. Data can be convincing, but stories attached to data localize the pain and truly sell the need for change.
Which change is needed to make your company better? Be the catalyst. Pick a champion and make your case. Don’t want to go it alone? That’s fine. Team efforts can be even more effective.
Learn how to become a change management hero by downloading our ebook, How to Secure Buy-In For Smarter Expense Reporting.