Making the Case for Change

The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

One significant but avoidable obstacle to the success of improvement projects is failure to create a shared need for the change. Without an understanding of the importance of the change, the “why,” all other details of the change may seem irrelevant.

Clearly defining the drivers, benefits and consequences of not changing will often be enough to fully align the teams and provide the incentive and rationale to act. This is sometimes called gaining “buy in.”

It is important to continuously make the case for change throughout the project lifecycle, especially since you may encounter new stakeholders as you progress from selecting a project to sustaining improvements. The case for change is tightly aligned with Resistance Management (see page 73).

How to Apply It

  1. Identify and develop the tangible benefits to customers, partners, and the organization that are expected from the project and articulated in the vision.
  2. Map these benefits to stakeholders that need to make a change and those that might ally with you in bringing it about.
  3. Develop and execute the implementation plan together, so they have a stake in the investment and (hopefully) the outcome.
  4. Consider framing the change in terms of customer value and financial opportunity.
Pearls and Pitfalls
  • Failure to make a sound case for change causes improvements to fail.
  • If staff, middle managers, or even customers, don’t see the importance of change, they simply won’t give it the commitment needed for success.

Key Points

  • Create a ‘Burning Platform’ by answering:
  • Why does the organization need to change?
  • What will it be like when the organization has changed?
  • Clarifying the need will instill confidence that the organization is serious about the pending changes, which will help staff engage with their peers to drive progress.
  • The case for change informs your communication and resistance management plans.

Methods to Make the Case for Change

Below are 4 different approaches to reach the same goal - an audience open to the change and the value it brings.

Actively communicate, Why, then What and How
  • Knowing why a change is important must precede the “what” and “how” that are all needed to make a project succeed. Establish the “why” in terms of tangible outcomes and benefits like:
    • Faster service
    • Less frustration
    • Standardized options for previously ad hoc processes
    • Improved ability to lower wasted time or effort
  • Link this change to the vision. Link the changes to the organization, the root causes, and the improvements to be made. Those challenging facts will generate the support and resources needed to resolve them.
Open Book Management
  • Provide access to critical business information to buttress the case for change and engage in frank dialogue on these questions:
    • What are the challenges facing your department?
    • What are the opportunities?
    • What are budgetary or resource considerations?
    • What do members or customers say?
    • What other measures do you use to make strategic decisions?
  • Provide necessary training to help people interpret key business data.
Drivers, Benefits and Consequences(DBC)
  • Drivers: How is this change a key contributor to the established vision? (e.g. creating a sustainable cost and delivery structure through user-friendly technologies)
  • Benefits: How will this change make customer experience more convenient, affordable, positive, etc.?
  • Consequences: Without this change, we will continue to feel disorganized and chaotic and our customers will continue to be frustrated.
Management by Wandering Around(MBWA)
  • The authors of The Leadership Challenge detail the value of leaders making themselves available for informal conversations about change initiatives. “Have you heard about our new Lean project that is going to solve some big customer headaches?”
  • Walk the halls prepared to share the why, then the what and how of the change, and then listen to understand potential impacts.
  • This organic feedback and supporting detail prepares the organization.