How To Craft a Change Narrative to Inspire Innovation

In the final step of this process for Building a Consensus for Software System Replacement, you will develop a Pitch Presentation designed to build consensus among the key decision makers in your budget decision process. To ensure the success of that communication, you’ll need to set the hook with a concise ‘elevator pitch’ that captures the attention of the widest possible audience and inspires them to embrace change and seek innovation. Once articulated, this will become the unifying theme in your Pitch Presentation.


This is your Change Narrative.


Before we jump into what an effective Change Narrative looks like, let’s discuss what it is not:


  • A Change Narrative is not a full condemnation of the current system. In all likelihood, some of the principles who signed off on the implementation of the current legacy system are still around. Your Change Narrative needs to inspire not embarrass. Your more detailed Pitch Presentation will need to emphasize some of the obvious drawbacks of the current system, but that information will be for necessary context, not the lead.
  • A Change Narrative is not overly technical or complex. Yes, your new system should certainly leverage leading edge technology to ensure you are launching a true generational platform delivering a sustainable cost of ownership, but technology alone does not inspire. What inspires is what technology can do to make people feel more rewarded, engaged, and effective.
  • A Change Narrative is not inward focused (i.e., what the system can do for your agency), it is outward focused (i.e., what the system can do for our constituents and the organization as a whole).


To quickly and easily see how to craft an effective Change Narrative, let’s start with an effective example and reverse engineer it to identify the critical elements:


“Project eCLIPSE will transform the way residents, business owners and developers do business with the City of Philadelphia. It will eliminate redundancies and the need for in-person paperwork and payments while emphasizing accessibility and convenience for citizens,” said Mayor Nutter. “Over time, Project eCLIPSE will improve public safety, government efficiency and delinquent tax collections, reduce vacant and blighted properties across the City and help attract new businesses and development by easing the application, permit and payment processes.”
Former Mayor Michael A. Nutter
City of Philadelphia

Leveraging POSSE PLS, Project eCLIPSE was a truly transformative project for the City of Philadelphia generating $12M in recovered tax revenues while increasing trade license renewals by over 40% and business license renewals by 60% in the system’s first year. As exemplified in the above quote, civic leaders like Mayor Nutter leveraged an effective Change Narrative to galvanize budget support and maintain organizational commitment through the duration of the project.


Let’s dive into the details to identify the key elements in this winning narrative:


  • Brand your solution: To capture the imagination and inspire change, your initiative needs a memorable brand. Project eCLIPSE stands for electronic Commercial Licensing, Inspection and Permit Services Enterprise. The specifics of what the system does are there for those inclined to dive into the details of the acronym (i.e., it does what is says on the box), but the heavy lifting is done by the brand name itself.


By association, an eclipse conveys a memorable moment of magnitude when one achievement surpasses another. In short, it is an inspiring and memorable word to summarize the ascent of a new solution replacing an outdated system. A core element in building consensus is inspiring people to remember your vision and associate it with a positive outcome. Brand to win budget allocation. It works!


  • Identify your external change advocates: This is where your earlier efforts to engage external ends users start to pay dividends. Having done the legwork to define their pain points with the current system, ‘shouting out’ your external constituents within your Change Narrative (residents, business owners, developers) signals their input into the process and more importantly, reinforces their value as external change advocates as more information is released confirming the concrete ways in which the new system addresses their input. When your City’s Senior Property Developers start asking the Mayor, “What’s happening with Project eCLIPSE?” your brand and end user outreach are working in tandem.
  • Summarize the ‘pain relief’ to rally your change advocates: By defining specific pain points that the new system will f ix for both internal users (e. g. eliminate redundancies and the need for in-person paperwork and payments) and external users (e.g. emphasizing accessibility and convenience for citizens, easing the application, permit and payment processes), you offer both audiences the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a new system designed to alleviate long standing deficiencies. Every daily frustration they encounter with an obsolete legacy system will spur them to advocate on your behalf now that concrete proof exists of a better solution on the horizon.
  • Align your solution with larger policy initiatives: Here again, the information gathering you performed with your Discovery Demo and End User Outreach pays off as that research will inevitably tease out opportunities to leverage your new system across a wider organizational footprint—one capable of addressing inter and intra-departmental challenges such as improving public safety, government efficiency and delinquent tax collections, reducing vacant and blighted properties, and attracting new business and development. In identifying a legitimate pillar application capable of meeting both the core needs of your agency and a broader organizational mandate, you inspire your agency counterparts, technology, and political leaders to get onboard with a vested interest in supporting a vision that simultaneously moves the needle for their core objectives. This is how budget allocations are won!


Once you’ve landed on your preferred Change Narrative, test drive your ‘elevator pitch’ on some of your most ardent supporters and critics. Remember, you want this narrative to be as compelling and convincing as possible. Once you’ve fine tuned it to the point where it’s clearly setting the hook and exciting your audience to learn more, it’s time to move the final step in your plan to build consensus for your new software system. It’s time to develop your Pitch Presentation.



Previously in this series: How to Engage Your Internal User Community for Feedback

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