GMN2016: Three steps to help your ideas take flight


Amanda Vragovich


Everyone likely returned home from Grants Managers Network 2016 annual conference in a mental fog filled with any number of innovative and novel ideas on taking the lead. As the fog lifts and the process geek in each of us begins to think through where to begin, the thought of the change management involved in proposing and implementing something new may appear daunting.

I wasn’t lucky enough to be in two places at the same time, so I couldn’t attend Dr. Audrey J. Murrell’s session on Leading in Times of Uncertainty and Change. However, I was able to glean tweets from her attendees on twitter about how change is messy, difficult, and may feel chaotic. She also reassures that it’s an opportunity for innovation and increasing organizational effectiveness. In Dr. Jan Young’s inspirational opening plenary, we were reminded to FEAR not when taking the lead, it’s only False Evidence Appearing Real.

A resounding echo from all corners of the conference suggest to: decide on your currency, find your champions, and plan your communication.
The three steps—currency, champions and communication—became glaringly obvious to me shortly after joining the roundtable on Managing Change when co-Workers Think Everything’s Fine. The space was so packed, two tables had to be pushed together and others still sat in a second row encircling the discussion. The session may as well have been called, ‘the doctors are in’ because several participants shared their different change management stories, asking for help. The moderator harnessed the collective brain force of everyone around the table, and ideas surfaced. After each problem was described, everyone essentially asked the same questions.

What’s your currency? Who are your champions? How will you communicate?
The three questions were expressed repeatedly, often in different formats, and perhaps even unbeknownst to the roundtable participants. Although I had heard these suggestions individually throughout the conference sessions, it was only at that roundtable, when I had that ‘aha’ moment, and wrote all three down in a row. As I thought back on the ideas I scribbled down to research for my organization, I was amazed at how well they applied to every single proposal swirling around in my head.

Whether its implementing a new database, building a stronger training program, proposing the adoption of a storytelling culture, challenging your professional development comfort zone, experimenting with alternative reporting mediums, launching a grantee survival kit, instituting mentoring portfolios, fostering new habits for learning retention, articulating your value proposition for a raise, or just managing up.  The same lesson applies: what’s my currency, who are my champions, and how will I communicate?

Let’s walk through a quick example, the idea of alternative reporting mediums.

  • Step one: find your currency. Get creative here, and think seriously about what would be motivational for others to buy into the idea. Would it make their job easier or create a safer environment? Would it make grantees more responsive? Would it save paper or time? The currency may be different for every single role, section or department.
  • Step two: who are your champions? Think about those who consistently stand behind your ideas, perhaps in a sponsor mentoring relationship. Who holds respect among their peers or can bend the ears of leadership? Are there any early adopters genuinely interested in leading the charge? Once you’ve identified potential champions, ask for their help based on their currency.
  • Step three: communicate the message. Reflect on addressing the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘why’ when you’re ready to move forward. Your champions will help you spread the message, too. Consider piloting the idea first, then expand.

Three steps, that’s easy. Right? In theory it is, but a lot of effort, collaboration and strategy will go into implementing any novel idea. However, boiling it down to three over-simplified steps helps me to visualize a more approachable path to focus less on initiating, and more on adoption and execution.

Amanda Vragovich is the resource officer with the Grantmaking Resource Center at the National Endowment for Democracy. Follow her on Twitter @PneufVvich.

Tagged in: #GMN2016

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