The Checklist for Your Next Grassroots and/or PAC Change Initiative

Anytime we are attempting to increase grassroots involvement or PAC participation, we need to be (if you are doing it correctly) aware of change management principles. Although we think of change management as gargantuan programs promoted by senior management, new PAC and grassroots initiatives also fall into this category.

Resistance is a natural phenomenon, so we must stop asking ourselves,” Why don’t they get it?”, and start doing the things that will help them “get it.”

The main issue is not the program proposal in the graphically appealing Power Point presentation, it’s usually in the implementation, or lack of it.

Here is my quick checklist for successful implementation of your change initiatives:

1. Sponsorship. This is the single most critical factor. Do the implementers have support from the key players who have power up, down and around the organization? And, as you’ve heard me say ad nauseam, we want behaviors from these sponsors that reinforce the change. Words are not enough.

2. Message. This is, above all, an influence campaign. Our sponsors may support us, but their reasons for doing so are different from our audience (employees or association members). They see acres of diamonds with the new effort; your audience sees a vast wasteland.

Do you know, with laser-like certainty, what your audience thinks (and more importantly because most do not think about such things) and perceives about your programs? Have you adjusted your message accordingly? Are you including your audience in your planning efforts?

3. Track Record. Your department’s track record with change initiatives plays a crucial role in your chances of success. Our audience does have a memory, and a history of failed or poorly – executed attempts at PAC fundraising campaigns or expanded grassroots efforts reduces the likelihood of acceptance without a substantial expenditure of resources. Fundamentally, failed efforts reduce credibility, and our influence challenge increases exponentially.

4. Cultural Fit. The degree to which a change is consistent with the existing culture of an organization reduces its disruptiveness.

Southwest Airlines’ grassroots expansion to promote repeal of the Wright Amendment is an apt example. While the company had mobilized employees previously, this legislation called for a monumental effort beyond previous campaigns. However, on various other corporate initiatives, SWA senior leaders could be heard reminding employees of their “Warrior Spirit,” the spirit which brought the company into being. Thus, the “Warrior Spirit,” coined by SWA President Colleen Barrett, is consistent with increased grassroots involvement.

5. Clarity. The factors within clarity include:

Clearly explained rationale for the change – Why do this? Why us? Why now?

Definition of the change in behavioral terms

Unequivocal sponsorship

One of the biggest objections to change is the proverbial, “The time isn’t right.” And they are right – the time is never right to realign the organizational universe, but those who don’t completely turn the box upside down now and then will never know how good their programs can be.