How to Make a Case for Change

Persuasion – it’s such a powerful word and such a critical skill for leaders. Most of us are used to tapping into our powers of persuasion every day – convincing our child to eat vegetables, arguing a political point of view and (all too familiar to me) trying to talk our way out of a speeding ticket.

Magnet attracting chrome ball bearing concept for marketing, busIn my experience, many large-scale change programs completely miss this point. Leaders need to convince their organization to operate differently or embrace new ideas – but too often they fall back on sanitized messages and “corporate speak” to convey key messages and persuade people to operate differently. In my experience, the best way to convince people to do things differently is to create a Case for Change:

  • Start with the “why”
  • After the “why,” outline what’s happening when and define who the change impacts
  • Answer the question, “What does this mean to ME?”
  • Be specific and crystal clear on what you want people to know and do differently
  • Relate it to how work gets done today – contrast what’s different
  • Give people a call to action as a takeaway

As you create your message, evaluate it to ensure it meets a few key principles:

  • Make sure it’s both rational and emotional – appeal to the head and the heart
  • Keep it short (please!)
  • Ensure it’s written in the simplest way possible
  • Lose the corporate speak, acronyms and jargon
  • Don’t distill your message (the best way to ensure that happens is to avoid the “multiple review” cycle that can water your message down)
  • Avoid one size fits all messaging
  • Remember to repeat, repeat, repeat using multiple methods/vehicles over time

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.