How to get legacy executives to sign off on innovative pilots?


Have you ever felt frustrated with an old school thinker (perhaps a peer, a client or a manager) not buying into your innovative ideas or digital transformation initiative? 

Chances are you have. Convincing old school thinkers to sign off on an innovative pilot project or simply to except a bold idea is one of the most common frustrations facing leading executives.

Before working with me, most of my clients admit that they have tried to get the buy in of their executives by giving a death by PowerPoint presentation. Usually, this means they come up with fancy ROI calculations and case studies. The problem with this model of thinking is that people often make decisions on emotions, not ROI calculations. Just ask my wife when it’s time for her to buy her next pair of shoes. Trust me, the ROI approach to her buying a new pair of shoes for an event, has minimum or no impact. 

When feeling blocked many seek out the assistance of an outside consultant. 

Depending on the consultant’s skill set they may recommend you do a company wide culture change initiative when the real issue is how to deal with just one executive. Another consultant may recommend it’s time for you to find a new job and to go somewhere with an entrepreneurial culture. A technology consultant may recommend you to use analytics to come up with new insights so that you are successful at persuading your senior executive.

Regardless of how you decide to proceed, here are two simple tactics to keep in mind when engaging legacy executives.

Consider the distinction of being responsible. If my job is to engage you in my idea, then it is my responsibility to engage you in the value proposition. You are not responsible for buying into my idea. If I’m the person responsible for engaging you, maybe I can stop using fancy jargon words such as “prescribed analytics”, “big data” or “digital transformation” and instead replace it with every day ordinary words. “Insights”, “statistics”, and “online performance transformation” sound a lot less intimidating and familiar to those who did not grow up in a digital world. 

2nd, remove the perceived risk from the personal perspective of the executive you are trying to engage. Keyword: their perceived risk- not your perceived risk. Consider offering a trial, pilot instead of initiating a full implementation, and conduct the pilot in a closed setting instead of an open environment. 


Taimour Zaman

ps. Join us in our upcoming Tele-summit where  Neal Oswald (former SVP of CIBC and now Co Founder at Wanilah Advisors Inc.) and David Giannetto (Author of big social mobile ) share 2 frameworks and 9 questions any old school executive is unconsciously asking themselves. This is a MUST attend telesummit for any senior managers looking at getting a sign off from legacy executives in a weak economy.

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