Have you ever had one of those revolutionary ideas or project propositions that was rejected by your clients or supervisors? You knew they were great, your team knew it, but decisive people still rejected them. Persistence, drafts, plans and estimations did not help. Most managers, leaders and in fact any people responsible for some area in their work are constantly facing such situations. They are demotivating, surrounded by many negative emotions and usually taken personally. So what can you do to better handle such matters?
First of all, lets answer the question: What characterizes a good undertaking? How to differentiate between good ideas and project propositions and bad ones? The key word here is value. What is the value of the undertaking if completed successfully and who will benefit most from it. The value meaning is quite broad here:
- money – money that can be earned or saved,
- employees (or only yours) time – some work eliminated or performed more efficiently,
- some hardware (in broad meaning) removal,
- company image enhanced,
- coworkers or team motivation improved,
- benefits for public good.
Keep in mind that it is much easier to convince someone with measurable values. In case they are not provided, do not be surprised if propositions will be rejected. They are crucial for accessing project validity.
Before presenting your proposition to the client or supervisor, clearly define the values and how to measure them. Define when and at what level they will be achieved. Who will benefit from them? Prepare yourself to explain exactly why those values will be achieved by implementing a proposition. A good idea is to go around and ask people for their opinion. Would they use your solution? If possible, ask potential beneficiaries if they are interested at all. This would partially validate the new idea and provide better arguments for a talk with the decisive person. The next factor you should not forget about is risk. Think about what can endanger the whole undertaking and what are the chances it will fail. The last but not least thing to consider is cost. Usually you do not need to present a detailed estimate, rough proven numbers should be enough during the initial discussion.
Such an approach should get you the initial attention and allow you to refine the plan or project proposition over time, maybe even with additional support.
Lets puts all the above into practice and check how an example solution proposition might look in a simple case. Lets assume that one of your responsibilities is preparing a projected earnings report every Monday. It usually takes up to 4 hours to complete. You have a brilliant idea on how to partially automate it by enhancing a few things so it will take no more than 1 hour. The gained values are clear:
- 3 hours saved per week, 156 hours saved per year – almost a month of work (easily measurable),
- a clear report preparation process that can be handled by anyone,
- increased motivation due to abandoning a mundane task.
Your boss will definitely benefit from it as they will gain your additional time for taking care of other matters. You have asked people familiar with the report and received some new ideas and positive feedback. The biggest risk is that modifications allowing automation might be too complicated. The second significant risk is that changes might interrupt everyday work. The first risk can be verified by additional investigation. This will roughly cost 2 weeks of developer work. You are putting all the above information together and going to your boss for a short talk (elevator pitch).
This is a simplified example with quite an obvious outcome. However, it shows the power of this approach. Preparing in such a way validates the idea and increases your confidence. You are going with real content to your supervisor or client – not with some vague proposition which you do not even fully understand. Try it out on some simple examples and check to see if you are able to get attention and acceptance.