Agent of Change: Part 2 Presentation

Posted 2013-01-09
Written by Matt Frost

In Part 1 I talked about the amount of research that is necessary to effectively drive change in your organization, in Part 2 we're going to talk about presentation of the pitch you put together for this change. It's important that your pitch be well researched and in some regards provable, as the Agent of Change the responsibility lies with you to prove the value of your idea. As we touched on in Part 1, a well thought out plan is going to go a long way in breaking down the barriers that make change difficult to take hold.

Identify the Problem and Communicate

Identification of the problem is vital in effecting change, if the change you're proposing doesn't make your life and conversely, your co-workers lives easier it's probably not going to be well received. It is important to note and I cannot overstate this, every organization is different; so I cannot in good conscience present a single way for appropriately communicating the problem you've found. What is appropriate in one place, may not be in another organization. As part of your pitch, you should have a good understanding of who the appropriate audience is in your setting.

People are generally happy with predictability and stability, change challenges both of those things. Don't lose sight of the fact that you are asking a group of people who have been developing a certain way for a period of time to start doing things differently. At this point in the process, you are a sales person; you are selling the problem as well as the solution. Be prepared for co-workers and subordinates to interpret the symptoms and solutions you're presenting differently. I like to think of it this way, "we have an issue with a large number of bugs being introduced into the live environment", is very open to interpretation. What's a large number? What's a bug? It might seem like an elementary definition, but you'd be surprised what you view as a large quantity may not seem large to other people. If possible, quantify your statement in man-hours, dollars and identify ways those hours could better spent to add value to your project. "In the average iteration, 10 bugs are being introduced into production and take us 15 hours to fix, those 15 hours could be spent working on new features", there is little room for interpretation here, but it means you have to do your homework.

Make your pitch

You are now armed with information to make your pitch for change and you know your audience. It's a good idea to have a couple versions of your pitch, a short version that you can present to a superior or team and a longer presentation that you should be prepared to present to your organization. Let's face it, you weren't hired to toe the line. Most organizations want to hire people that have problem solving skills and can take on more of a leadership type role, I can't stress it enough be prepared to present and defend your ideas.

In order to get the attention of your organization, your ideas will have to be vetted to some extent; this is where the short or "elevator" pitch comes into play. Your short pitch should be focused and concise; sell the problem and sell the solution and don't let the details bog you down too much. Your job in this process is to identify that you have a problem and demonstrate that the research you've done makes your solution a viable one. While ultimately the person vetting your idea is going to decide whether it's worth investing more time in, the elevator pitch is a great way to build excitement amongst other team members. If you have an opportunity to share it with someone over lunch, take it; even if your superior is less than excited about it getting your team on board may be just what you need to sway his or her opinion.

After you've successfully given your elevator pitch, you may be required to put together some documentation or a presentation about what this change is going to look like from a practical standpoint. My suggestion is give an actual presentation, similar to the format you might find at a PHP conference. Make it informative and entertaining, this is your moment! You've effectively sold your idea to the appropriate higher ups, it's important to build excitement with the developers directly effected by your change. All it takes is one uncooperative, unexcited developer to drag the process down; plus building excitement is far more effective than the threat of disciplinary action. You are in control of the message, your message should make the members of your organization want to participate.

What's good for the goose

If you organization has Project Managers, a marketing team and/or a sales department make sure this information is accessible to them as well. After all, the change you're suggesting is adding value to your projects and ultimately to your clients; let the marketing and sales teams capitalize. You've got slides, documentation, statistics and loads of other good information that is going to benefit your development process, sales people in particular are looking for that jewel that helps set your organization apart; you've got that jewel!

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