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The Power of Alternatives

In my last blog post, I wrote that we should view and position ourselves as subject matter experts. I shared that if I'm worried that my stakeholders or SMEs aren't hearing my concerns or considering all the angles, I will try getting their attention via another method. I want to dive into that more in this post. One of the methods that I often use is what I affectionally call the power of alternatives.

Here's an example. A few months ago, I learned that as part of my new job, I needed to develop a series of courses as part of a new learning product, and the deadline was, to say the least, ambitious. Given the expectations for the product, where it fits in the long-term organizational strategy, and being the lone eLearning strategist, I needed to share my concerns and offer a solution. However, I provided a few solutions and let them take their pick. Dealer's choice, you know? My manager said she appreciated being able to review my thoughts in writing, and my CLO was happy with my second recommendation. We are on a great track right now developing this product.

Here's My Strategy: 

1.) I provide at least three recommendations (if possible).

I usually try to come up with three because having only one choice can seem limiting, and having too many can lead to analysis paralysis. Think of it as "Good, Better, Best" or "Platinum, Gold, & Bronze," or have as much fun with it as you want. The bottom line is that it offers you more than one way to get to the end goal. Make sure to take your time coming up with these ideas so that you can present them compellingly. 

2.) I indicate the benefits of each recommendation.

For example, the only benefit I could outline for the original deadline for the eLearning product was that it would be available to learners at an earlier date. 

3.) But I always include the risks and costs for each recommendation. 

Back to my example: suppose all the courses in the eLearning product had to launch based on the original (overly ambitious) deadline. In that case, we either a) hire a few freelancers, which would cost more money, or b) scale down the design, which wouldn't be as engaging for learners and potentially reduce interest in future products.

4.) Put your recommendations in writing, keep it brief, and allow time for reflection.

I like to submit these options in writing because being given the time to read a proposal before deciding on a course of action can generate more contemplation than being asked for an answer on the spot. I've noticed that people feel pressured to have an answer in a face-to-face meeting, even though they may need time to reflect. I provide a few days or longer (if possible) before reconvening with my stakeholders and SMEs to get their reaction and decision. I also make sure to keep it to 1-2 pages so that it's manageable. Use your creativity to keep it short; I often create mini information dashboards. Here's an example from a different project. 

Why does it work, or why is it worth trying? Because people love having options. With options, we have the freedom to consider the pros and cons and make what we consider to be an informed choice. We feel like we need more than one path. Also, it likely comes down to control. 

Will it work every time? Maybe. However, it goes back to showing that you are a viable team member who cares about the organization and can offer strategic solutions. Even the most challenging SMEs and stakeholders have applauded my proposals and ideas even if the organization didn't implement them. 

Have you tried this in the past? How often do you offer alternative ideas and solutions?


Need Help? I've Got Your Back

Do you need help creating communication strategies and processes to improve collaboration with your SMEs and stakeholders? Let me help you. Contact me to discuss this in more detail.



Hey, I'm Kandice

I'm a learning expert with tons of experience managing, designing, and developing learning programs as a solo learning leader. I love sharing my ideas and thoughts on how I do it and manage to enjoy it...most of the time. 

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