A reader recently asked: Once a person has come up with a good idea, what steps are involved in taking the idea from the realm of possibility to the realm of reality?
It’s an interesting question and one that has plagued countless creative-types. Having a good idea, be it for a new product or service, a process improvement, or even an organization-wide cultural change, is not enough. If you want to see it evolve from concept to reality, you must be able to demonstrate that it will bring about a healthy return on investment (ROI).
This begins with a Business Case, one that illustrates (a) the hard and soft costs of design, implementation, and adoption, (b) any risks to the organization, and (c) the projected breakeven point and ultimate upside. This often includes a Stakeholder Impact Analysis that shows the projected, perhaps perceptual winners and losers by group.
For example, your idea for lowering costs by off shoring work may be initially well-received by Finance, met with scrutiny from Quality Assurance, and overtly rejected by Operations and/or your customers. Therefore, knowing the ultimate decision makers and their agenda is critical. Even CEOs need to pitch the board for the big changes.
You also have to consider the larger organizational dynamic and other forces competing for the same resources. For example, you may come up with a brilliant design for a first line manager, financial acumen training program or a new hire orientation process that reduces administration by 25%, but if new managers in your company rarely make significant budget decisions and organizational growth is flat-lined, it’s doubtful either of these will get the green light. This is particularly likely if the resources required to launch these projects were also pitched on a potential project to improve, for example, the output of proposal developers. While still an SG&A function, the latter project would likely have a greater impact on top line revenue and thus be approved quicker.
Leadership competencies such as executive presence, professional impact and influence, and communication skills are of course still critical to making your case and rallying support for your idea. However, in this era of big data, you can’t get by on style alone. If you want to effect positive change, you have to sell to all styles. That means crafting a logical storyline that people will resonate with all parties. This includes among other things:
- Creating a compelling vision for the change
- Setting a strategy for getting there
- Providing the detailed roadmaps (project plans)
- Predicting and overcoming obstacles
- Measuring the milestones via a scorecard
- Proving the ROI
- Celebrating the win
- Embedding the change to avoid backsliding
Ideas are easy. Making them happen takes both hard and soft skills. Often times partnering with someone who compliments your skillset can expedite the road to success. Travel well.
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