by Alistair Gordon and Louise Taylor
Why does building a quality business case matter? When you’ve put your heart and soul into preparing an initiative and thinking you’re going to have an impact, a knock back is horrendous. It indicates a lack of commercial acumen, an inability to help your organisation execute on strategy. It reflects badly on your department and can make or break your personal brand.
Rule 1: Adopting a C-level mindset
In our 5 Golden Rules for Effective Business Cases we talk about the mindsets and priority of CEOs and CFOs. And you need to be able to talk their language – company wide, outcome focused. Crucially, you need to be honest about risk and mitigation and have financials with ROI, ROE, ROC audited and signed off by someone the CFO trusts.
Rule 2: Understanding the decision making criteria
Some criteria are more important than others. Your business case needs to be shaped by the priorities of the decision makers – not yours. And this can be tricky as most exec teams have stated and some unstated DMC – each individual bringing their own personal agendas to the table: “The exec team needs development – everyone but me”. What are their unstated concerns: CFOs will have signed off on many leadership programs and, at end of $150K, haven’t seen any improvement, haven’t had outcomes tabulated for them. Talk about leadership programs in terms of figures but you need to bring them to life for the Sales Director and head of manufacturing, about what behavioural changes will be brought about and the ripple effect for their area.
Rule 3: A compelling Cost Benefit Analysis is more than a set of figures
This is your opportunity to really talk in terms of embedding behavioural change from a frontline leadership program- with a case that you’ve made easy for everyone to sign up to. C-level want to know how leaders will act differently to save money, delight customers, stop churn. And they’re interested in how you’re going to measure it.
Approach a CBA objectively. Make no assumptions – have all aspects verified - and leave no options unconsidered so that you can answer every question. Outline the cost of doing nothing – a very powerful impact. The case needs to demonstrate a level of intense research, with a clear appraisal of tangibles and intangibles. If you don’t have hard data, go and find it. You won’t get priority ahead of other area’s cases without it.
Again, take a look at the where we correlate the identification of measured regretted churn, productivity gains and other figures to the cost of leadership programs. Exercises such as these are very convincing.
Yes, hard dollar values and percentages set targets for your business case - setting you up for success and, scary, failure. But, frankly, you need to develop and face the same discipline as every other department. It’s a fantastic rigour that focusses HR on every element of the execution - who’s on the program, how are they being supported after, to get those stated outcomes.
Rule 4: Collaboration and shaping
Every leadership program – frontline or senior – advocates collaborative behaviour. This is your chance to model the benefits of that behaviour when shaping your business case. Connecting with the ‘unfriendly’ C-levels is your most effective weapon: they’ll give you a clear picture why it won’t make it and, if you convert them, you’ll have your staunchest allies.
Rule 5: Outcomes not activities
The CEO isn’t going to be interested in the number of workshops you’ll be running or the end of program harbour cruise. Focus on the outcomes that are expected, how they’ll be measured, and how the long term benefits from the initiative will change the business.
So, what will get priority for your ideas in a competitive boardroom?
By being strategic, and testing every idea to within an inch of its life, you’ll demonstrate to the executive team that you are not an HR person working in the business but a business person with awesome people expertise. You will have presented an innovative response to the commercial imperative for growth.