Ideas, Ideas, and more Ideas

Your team may have some of the best ideas to move the company forward – some big, some not so big – but forward nonetheless.

Have you ever done or said something like the 3 items below to help foster new ideas?

  1. Set up a process to submit ideas that prove an economic advantage to the company
  2. “Come to me with a problem AND a proposed solution
  3. Put up a suggestion box
These are just a few of the ways I have come across in my 30 years of management and coaching.  They all have good intentions but, usually, have unintended consequences.  The process created to submit new ideas can be lengthy and complicated thus discouraging participation.  The Problem/Solution approach can cause problems to fester if the proposer cannot think of a viable alternative and stays silent.  The suggestion box has failed time and again without proper feedback to all submitted suggestions.  Even though you may have moved ahead with some of the suggestions, everyone must be acknowledged to keep the ideas flowing.

Not there yet

Ari Weinzweig and his team at Zingerman’s have crafted a well thought out process over a number of years that has allowed them to grow the company, a team of leaders and idea generators.

In 1982, Zingerman’s started as a tiny bakery in Ann Arbor, MI and is now a ~$60M food conglomerate. A process that helped accelerate growth, generate ideas and grow leaders is called Bottom Line Change (BLC).  There are webinars to attend, classes to take and books you can read to get the full picture (link to the site at the end of article), but here are the highlights of the process:

Bottom Line Change (BLC) -> 5 steps

Premise: Any change relates to fixing a problem or creating an opportunity.  Everyone should be invited to participate in the change process. All change creates resistance. The way to affect change is to overcome resistance. 

Their formula for change is:

Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance

If any of the factors on the left of the equation are zero, you will not overcome the resistance and change will either not happen or will wither and die soon after implemented.

A way to overcome resistance is the following proven, 5-step process:

1.  Write up a clear and compelling purpose for the change. Share this proposed change DRAFT with a few people (don’t ask the senior team) who will be impacted to ask for feedback.  This helps the change leader get really clear about why he or she believes the change is beneficial and how badly it’s needed. It also gets others clear on why the change is a good idea (or not). If you cannot excite enough impacted people then the change may not yet be compelling enough.

2.  Write up a positive vision for the change and get leadership buy-in.  Share this positive vision DRAFT with a few people who will be impacted to ask for feedback. To be effective, regardless of content, the vision must be:

  1. Inspiring
  2. Strategically sound
  3. Documented
  4. Well communicated.

Present this to the senior team or similar body that would review for the four factors above.

TIP: Line up your ACEs: ACE stands for Advisory Content Experts. These are people who might have valuable insights and contributions and who can help craft the vision early on in the change process. They are people who have some content expertise to contribute.

3.  Engage a microcosm of people to manage the way you share the change.  That is, the microcosm will determine who needs to know and what is the best way to tell them.

This group doesn’t need to have any expertise on the topic at all – it only needs to have some smarts.  You are looking to create communication strategies that build positive energy within each possible subgroup that will be affected by the change.

Over the course of a couple of minutes or a couple of days, the champion will ask the same two questions of the microcosm:

  1. Who needs to know about the impending change?
  2. What’s the best way to get them on board?

4.  Inform everyone impacted by the change and have THEM (or a subset) draw up an action plan to implement it.  I think this is the most powerful step in the process.  There is a saying that “People do not like change”.  I think this is untrue.  Change happens every day in everyone’s lives. What we dislike most about change is having it foisted upon us.  This step helps to increase the likelihood that the change will stick.

5.  Implement the change.  The shorthand for this step is as follows:

  • Plan
  • Do
  • Check
  • Adjust
  • Celebrate success – VERY IMPORTANT!

For more on this, please visit the Zingerman Training website – ZingTrain – for the BLC pamphlet. There are many other resources on the site as well.

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Premium Scaling Up Coach


* Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees.

Published by Bill Flynn

Gazelles Member Advisor and early stage startup specialist with a proven track record with 16 Boston-based startups (9 to date with 5 successful outcomes, advisor to 7 others); SMB to Fortune 500 companies. 20+ years of Senior Sales, Marketing and GM experience in industries including mobile advertising, security, digital advertising, e-commerce and IT. Core Competencies: Player/Coach, Metrics-driven, Execution-based philosophy, Life-long learner

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