You have been at your job for a few months. While things are going fairly well, you have discovered several areas that you believe would streamline effort (including your own) and help the organization save money and be more effective. You have mentioned some of your ideas to your immediate supervisor, and they were met with a lukewarm response. Now you are thinking of trying to get to the actual decision makers. Wouldn’t this help others recognize your expertise and value.
The answer is “it might.” Or “it might not.” There are several competing factors to consider. There is almost always a tension between “new kid on the block” and “we have always done it this way.” Have you already established your value and expertise at your current organization, or are you assuming your good reputation preceded you? Most people need some time to prove themselves in new jobs.
The following are ten suggestions that might help you be more successful in bringing your ideas to action::
1. Do the necessary research.Your previous experience may be in conflict with the philosophy or mission of your current job or the current boss. That doesn’t mean that change can’t happen, just that it might be harder to achieve and it may take more time.
2. Try to learn the history of the issue. Has a similar suggestion or plan been made or tried before? If so, why didn’t it work? Who made the previous proposal? How would your suggestion be different?
3. Understand budget considerations, especially the timing. While your idea might be cost-effective in the long-run, the IT or personnel budget for the current fiscal year may already be set. Do you know the actual total cost? Have you done a thorough cost-benefit analysis? What help do you need for this?
4. Think about staff issues. Who are the main players? Who would need to sign off before you could move forward? Would job descriptions or work schedules have to be adjusted? Would any positions need to be added or eliminated? If there is a union, would union officials welcome or object to the necessary changes?
5. Don’t underestimate how hard it can be to change an organization. Most acceptable change is incremental. How would a comprehensive implementation plan, timeline, and budget be developed? Do you actually have the necessary skills and experience or will such a plan require a team approach? Who would select, lead, and sanction that team?
6. Keep your claims in check. Don’t corner the boss on the elevator and tell her that you think you can save the company big bucks, or that you have a reorganization plan for downsizing your department. Her response will probably be to ask you if you have discussed your ideas with your immediate supervisor, or to put your thoughts in writing.
7. Going over your boss’s head seldom works. Instead go through the appropriate chain of command. If you can’t convince your immediate boss that your idea has merit, how will you convince others? How will you obtain co-worker support? Can you succinctly put your idea on paper? Can you test that idea at a staff meeting or brainstorming session?
8. Both patience and flexibility will go a long way, especially when change must be incremental. Keep alert for small opportunities to move pieces of your big plan forward. Change can be like a jigsaw puzzle, and you can build a big picture piece by piece.
9. Don’t become a broken record at meetings. Constant complaining won’t get you very far. No one enjoys working with a person — especially a newer employee — who takes this approach. Avoid statements like, “I told you before that the old system wouldn’t work,” or “We are operating in the Dark Ages.”
10. Be enthusiastic and positive. Offer workable and valid suggestions whenever you can. Volunteer to serve on—or lead—teams. As you gain the respect of others, you will be viewed as a change leader. It’s at that point that your ideas will stand a good chance of success.