Feeling the Pain of Your Business Case


Have you seen the recent series of anti-smoking television commercials?  The TV ads feature testimonials from ex-smokers who have severe health issues due to smoking (i.e. loss of hair and teeth, tracheotomies, etc.).  The ads are graphic and intentionally shocking.  And for good reason.  For years anti-smoking advocates have aired numerous statistics about the dangers of smoking, but there is something in our nature that finds it difficult to relate to raw numbers.  These commercials connect with us at an emotional level.  Hearing a story or seeing an image becomes much more powerful than citing a figure, no matter how large the number may be.

Don’t be too quick to brush this off as a marketing ploy.  Understanding that you need to personalize your message can help you change behavior and convince people in your organization to accept your business case for telework. 

Management guru John Kotter tells a story in his book The Heart of Change he calls “Gloves in the Boardroom.”   The story tells of a manager that was having a difficult time making his case to consolidate the company’s procurement processes.  Executives wouldn’t pay attention to him.  The manager rounded up over 400 types of work gloves the company’s factories had purchased from different suppliers and dumped them on a table in front of the executive team.  The executives were so taken back that they decided to redesign the procurement process.  Bottom line: making your case tangible, memorable, and letting others feel the pain can go a long way.

Last week I wrote about the various elements in a business case.  Keep in mind that even with a well-crafted business case, you may still find yourself not getting enough attention.  Think about how you can make your leadership team feel some of the pain.  Of course, this depends on the hot buttons for your organization (e.g. is management more interested in saving hard dollars or retaining/attracting talent?), but here are a few ideas:

  • Facility walk-through.  If you’re trying to convince management to adopt telework to cut real estate or energy costs, then walk management through some of the facilities to highlight the wasted utilities or unused space.  I’ve seen this done at a company with an informal telework program in place.  Management was taken through a building on a Friday.  It was quiet as a library and the vast majority of the cubicles sat empty.  The company later migrated to a hot desking environment.
  • Anecdotes.  Don’t just show the results of an employee satisfaction survey highlighting that employees want more work-life balance or a reduction in commutes.  Pick some employees (hide their names or get their consent if needed) to illustrate some of the extreme cases.
  • Exit surveys.  When do you usually get some real, honest feedback?  When an employee quits.  If exit surveys are conducted in your organization the raw data or direct quotes can be very powerful.
  • “Day in the life.”   On a more positive note, you may have teleworkers involved in a pilot or participating in an unsanctioned telework practice.  Highlight their specific experiences and show how they are benefitting. 

Making the effort tangible can often help engage leaders more quickly than a series of PowerPoint slides.  Note that I’m not suggesting you should forego the due diligence in creating your business case and only appeal to people’s emotions.  However, it is always helpful to make leaders experience the relevance rather than just relying on analysis alone.

Have your own idea?  Let me know.



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