How to Pitch a Process Change to Your Boss (Like a Boss)

June 15, 2015 Will Lam

Marketing Process Change

There’s an old saying from Benjamin Franklin that is something to the effect of, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”  

I’d like to add another certainty: Change.

You've probably been in a challenging situation where your team or workplace reached a critical juncture where something needed to be changed. Or perhaps you’re in the fortunate situation where things are “good” but you know they can be so much better. 

Whichever end of the spectrum you’re on, you undoubtedly face the dilemma of addressing the status quo in order to improve a process.

There are two ways you approach how you put your suggested process change in motion.

The Top-Down Approach

Undoubtedly, it will be easier to propose new and better solutions to your team leaders if they encourage a culture of experimentation—which might resemble HubSpot’s—and want to push the envelope for constant improvement.

Keep in mind, this is not for the sake of change or doing incrementally better, but to make improvements that move the meter in a big way.

Some examples would be pitching your boss on consolidating your processes through software that offers visibility with metrics attached. Another could be integrating with another system to remove painstaking manual processes. Or figuring out how to get more mileage from your content with the “leftover turkey” approach to your content strategy.

The Bottom-Up Approach

This strategy involves getting buy-in from other team members.

Maybe there’s a best practice that was stumbled upon or learned over time. If it was independently organized and happened organically, there might be a good opportunity to bring it up during a meeting where each team member can explain it or attest to its efficacy.  

Assuming this process works leaps and bounds better than the “official process”, you’ll have a easier time adopting the newly discovered best practice as a better approach. Otherwise you can pitch it as a trial run to compare, contrast and make a decision afterwards.

Of course, you need to consider the bigger picture. Perhaps it isn’t feasible because another team is resistant. It might be tricky to navigate, as each team has their own way of doing things or a certain agenda to carry through.

Understand the root of the problem

If you’re going to be a catalyst for change, you need to answer the basic question:

Why is change necessary in the first place?

You can’t just run with a hunch and expect things to happen. Research and dig into the root of why you need change in the first place.

Maybe it’s already been explored and there are other factors at play as to why things are the way they are. You might save yourself a lot of time or embarrassment if you simply understand what the root of the issue is.

If there is a valid reason to change something, then go a little deeper to investigate why it needs to be changed and how it can be resolved. This is where you put the grey matter between your ears to work and come up with some solutions.

Once you’ve come up with some ways to make things a heck of a lot better than before, it’s time to present and tell the story of “what is” and “what could be” with your genius, novel solution(s).

Come prepared with proof

In order to persuade anyone, there needs to be compelling evidence as to why things need to change in the first place.

Perhaps this means presenting current data over a reasonable time period, and contrasting it with the solutions or results of an experiment you ran. Even if it’s a small sample size, presumably that data is promising enough without the need to sugar coat it. Overlay those results with your old ones to show the contrast between the old and newer, more promising data.

Maybe you’re comparing processing time, pieces of content produced, leads generated or something else that matters to your team and company’s objectives.

The trick is to have something worthwhile to present to your boss and team that will generate some excitement in “what could be”.

Use your resources wisely

Perhaps your novel solution really is that awesome, but it might have come at the expense of something else.

Were you able to do it in a way that was cost effective and fast? Or maybe it’s looking at the process from a different perspective and doing things manually. You’ll need to be able to repeat these things, otherwise it isn’t a process, it’s a one-off occurrence.

You need to navigate all this while trying to get to your actual end goal: making things better than they were before.

Some ways to go about this include:

  • Coming up with a clear hypothesis about the problem and how your approach should work in theory.
  • Going back to experimenting and documenting your process—keep notes on it versus the old way.
  • Doing things in a scrappy way, which might mean doing things manually so you understand the workflow and breaking things into clear steps you can reproduce.
  • Finding inspiration from another team's or organization's approaches and applying it to your own team.
  • Organize your findings in a way that lets you easily tell as a story to reinforce why the new way of doing things is superior.

Ideally, the fewer resources it takes to execute on this, the better. However, if you’re not in an ideal situation, you could go back to presenting your idea of what “could be” and take into account what it will cost to make it happen. It’s up to you.

Move swiftly, not recklessly

Finally, when undergoing any sort of change, there should be some sort of transition plan or trial period.

Maybe you can gradually implement the process before you eventually roll it out to the rest of your team, so as not to disrupt everyone’s workflow or allow them to onboard themselves without the entire team coming to a halt.

Having a plan of how it will be executed is just as important as getting buy-in from your team.

What have you implemented in the past, and how did you convince your boss or team to make that change for the better?

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About the Author

Will Lam

Will is a Product Marketing Manager at Uberflip. Outside of Uberflip, he likes lifting heavy things and putting them down, is horrible at Ruby on Rails and iOS development, and prides himself on being a coffee snob.

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