When you want to influence a change: The 5-part model that works for me

Getting others to buy into your idea, plan or pitch for budget is a regular occurrence in the corporate world. Especially, if you are in a corporate support group, you are constantly striving for people to love the product, process or service you provide and continue to see value in what you are doing.

For years, I have tried to influence higher levels to agree with or adopt my proposal for many different projects. Some involved investing money; some did not. But, all involved changing something – either a process, technology or behavior. In order to get “buy-in” or support for your proposal, I highly recommend viewing this exercise in influencing as a change management project.

There are many change management methodologies you can choose. I am certified in PROSCI and believe in their ADKAR model (Awareness of the need – Desire to support change – Knowledge of how to change – Ability to demonstrate skills and behaviors – Reinforcement to make change stick). I have used this model to help craft my change management plans to work through this fairly linear path in changing behavior.

I am not huge on models. There are models for everything these days. Just pick up any article on business and you will stumble on another model to organize a strategy, philosophy or process. However, I do put stock in the PROSCI model and another “model”, or really acronym, that I learned years ago when studying change. It is called the SCARF Model created by David Rock, the head of the NeuroLeadership Institute.

The SCARF model, like ADKAR, is an acronym that stands for: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness. Rock’s model focuses on how to use this in managing teams and working with others pretty broadly. I have applied this model in a slightly different direction toward managing change.

When I try to influence for change, I think about all of the decision-makers and what matters to them. If I don’t know, I find out. At least one of the above five areas matter to your decision-makers. So, understanding how to lessen concerns in these areas, will help you manage the change and combat resistance.

  1. Status – This one can be important. If someone feels like their status in the organization is being threatened by what you are proposing, they will resist the change. This may be inevitable but if a leader feels this way, your job is to provide real assurance to their status. Give them a large role in the decision or review of your project milestones. Get them involved.
  2. Certainty – If your change leaves things uncertain for them, you need to educate around the why and spend more time on sharing details to help them feel more comfortable and turn the uncertain into certain for them.
  3. Autonomy – Not everyone, but many of us, value our autonomy. If your change threatens that, you will get resistance. Look at what you are proposing. Does it create more oversight that might “pinch” someone? If so, is that necessary? If it is, then help manage this resistance by involving that leader in the oversight tasks. No one likes bureaucracy. But those who value autonomy really don’t like bureaucracy. Re-visit your solution to see what can be tweaked. If nothing can be altered, then communicating “the why” and the impact of the change will be most important to get this leader on board.
  4. Relatedness – Some people greatly value connection and collaboration. If your solution somehow cuts them out of the solution, you may see resistance. Think about how everyone may play a role. Think about how teams can work together. For someone who values relatedness and feels this is being challenged, it will be important for you to focus on the people side of the change. Explain, as part of your pitch, how people will receive rewards or gain huge benefits as part of your solution.
  5. Fairness – If your change creates a sense of inequity for employees, your leaders may push back. Especially now, equity and inclusion are essential to a healthy working environment. Leaders are growing more and more conscious of this. Pay attention if your solution inadvertently creates inequity and address it. Talk about equity as part of your pitch to proactively address this.

The goal is to know what your leaders value and what they might resist if they perceive their values are being challenged. When you uncover that, either make some changes to even out the imbalance of your solution or spend time on educating and addressing these concerns proactively. You will be more influential if you appeal to what matters most to the people you are pitching to.

And, above all, remember that people support what they create. So, if you think you may have a high resistor to your idea, involve them early and throughout the solutioning process. You will have an ally for life if you are more inclusive.

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