Buy In

Research has shown that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail, due to executives lack of gaining enough buy-in, for their initiatives and ideas, according to the book Buy-In, by Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter.

“I don’t understand it.  I put the plan together, it was beautiful and well thought out. All I had left to do was execute, and then the global director became a huge brick wall.” My client was agonizing over their lack of success, not seeing the possible role they played in the ultimate stand still or their failure in gaining buy-in from the their team mate.

As Kristi Hedges wrote in her Forbes article, “How To Get Real Buy In For Your Idea”,

As any leader can attest, getting true buy-in isn’t easy. One significant factor is that the process we use to secure buy-in is inherently flawed. In fact, we don’t approach it as buying at all – but about selling in. I call it “describe and defend.” We develop an idea, sell it to ourselves first, and then go about selling it to others. We consider every objection and develop an air-tight defense for each one. The problem is that we need others to be open to our influence. When they feel sold to, they are more likely to resist or ignore our entreaties. We may get compliance but we won’t get the kind of buy-in that motivates others to deeply support our ideas.”

In my client’s case, they hadn’t even considered the global effect of what they wanted to accomplish and the global leader felt like they were cramming the new process down their throats without understanding the cultural and real business effects of their regions. Buy-in wasn’t really considered until the implementation step. This is always too late. In the interest of speed, my client’s ‘high achiever mentality’ wanted to get to the solution quickly and move on to the next problem to solve.

So what really needs to happen to get buy-in?

If you slow down up front, and take the steps you need to co-create your ideas with your stakeholders and team, then you will ultimately implement needed change much more quickly, i.e. slow down to get faster.

One tool to help achieve buy-in, which Hedges outlines in her article, is called Dial-In™.

“It involves having a crisp idea but holding it in draft form. Then before it’s confirmed in our minds, taking it out to others to invite discussion, acknowledge ideas, and leverage those ideas back into the whole.”

As a quick synopsis of the Dial-In™ model for obtaining buy-in, here are the steps:

  1. Develop your idea as a draft. As one of my clients, Nick Taylor from netlogx, would say “What is the problem you are trying to solve?” Be clear about the problem, the solutions, the thought process used to get to the solution, and the risks. Your first challenge is to have agreement that there is a problem in the first place. Data is always good to have on hand to support your analysis.
  2. Present your idea as a draft and ask for input from your stakeholders, team members, etc. Be truly open to the input that can make your idea better and stronger. Be open to criticism, that’s part of the process. You’ll have to put your ego aside and focus on developing the best outcome.
  3. Use the input you receive and make changes accordingly, while pulling your stakeholders and team members into the process, and ultimately acknowledging their contribution and ownership into the final product.
  4. Keep everyone up to date on the future progress.

If you want to take your buy-in process up yet another level, include your leadership team regularly in discussions of company wide problem identification, solutions, and big picture implications. For example, in my client’s case, we’re pulling the leadership team together to talk through the global issues of each department so that we can obtain buy-in on solutions as a team, and no one is left out of the discussion.

Once you’ve polished your buy-in process, you can put your seat belt on and get ready for a faster ride to success!

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