Advocating for Your Ideas

Jennifer Scotchell had done a major engineering study which showed a new packaging machine would save the company $114,000/year.  The payback for the investment would be three months.  The capital committee approved the purchase and a purchase order was processed.  The only thing left was the plant manager’s decision signature.  It had been three months, and the plant manager had still not signed the purchase order.

Jennifer met with the plant manager to see what the problem was.  “I’ve been really busy,” he replied.  “Let me ask you a question,” responded Jennifer.  That machine will save $2,000/week.  I estimate it will take you 15 minutes to review and sign the purchase order.  Is there anything that you have done in the past three months that had a greater return?

The plant manager was really steamed.  He had never had a new employee talk to him like that.  “You are being very pushy.  Is that what they taught you to do in college?”

“No sir.  It’s what you taught me,” Jennifer answered.  “When you met with us when we started, you emphasized that we needed to advocate for our own ideas.  You said we would be judged based upon the improvements we made to the company.  I’m just doing what you told us to do.”

The plant manager realized that she was right.  He had said that.  “Jennifer, I apologize.  You did do what I asked.  I’m signing the purchase order right now.  I’ll also call our purchasing manager to expedite this.  Thanks for having the courage to speak up.”

Most organizations say they value innovation and then create barriers to positive change.  Jennifer was courageous and proper in advocating for her idea.  Her advocacy started with a question she asked.  Here are other questions you might ask.

  • You have given me a number of reasons not to accept my idea. What ideas to you have to fix this?
  • I know that this is going to cost us money to do, but what will it cost us if we don’t do this?
  • Maybe my idea won’t work, but can you work with me to try it out on an experimental basis?
  • I realize that my idea is based upon a longer term time horizon, but can a short term fix really help that much?
  • What would make my idea acceptable to you?

Asking questions like this will often sort out those who really want to make things better from those who just don’t want to change.  Asking these questions won’t make you popular, but they will make you respected.

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                “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.