Summary: Approximately 55 percent of all projects fail because they do not have key stakeholder buy-in. This “tip” defines five ways you can achieve buy-in to make change initiatives a success.
True story: I recently asked 35 executives of a large commercial aircraft manufacturing firm to each describe a change project they regarded as unsuccessful. Approximately 55% said the reason the project had failed because they did not have the buy-in of key stakeholders.
Unfortunately, many leaders don’t even get to first base with their “call to action.” Why is that?
Reasons for resistance
- People typically don’t understand what the change is really about. This is because no context has been created – the purpose and impact of the change have not been articulated.
- A shared recognition of the problem among employees, based on a good business case, has not been developed.
- The vision and call to action has been under-communicated – no one understands the goals or direction of the change.
To get buy-in, you must give people the right context. “Context” points to the fact that people have to “know-why” ahead of “know-how.” It is the context, the shared understanding, meaning and interpretations behind a call to action that creates a sense purpose for people. It gives them a reason to get on board.
Greg Rake, VP of Global Distribution and Patti Rebeil, Director of Human Resources, both of Pier 1 Imports, have done a terrific job in getting buy-in on the vision, values and strategies of their operation. They’ve worked hard on the following steps:
- Develop a business case for the change – one in which the need for change – the threat or the opportunity – is greater than the pain or cost of not changing.
- Share the data and information about the current reality, but go beyond that. Telling people the facts is not enough. With facts alone, they will make up their own interpretations or “stories” about them. Ninety percent of the time, it will be negative. Help them understand the importance of the numbers.
- Enroll the “opinion leaders” first. Those are the people that others go to and say, “What do you think of this?” These are frequently the middle managers. Get their input. Develop the context with them.
- Provide people with the interpretations you want them to understand and support. Tell them the impact of current reality. Let them know the difference their behavior makes in achieving the vision. Touch them personally and emotionally. Don’t manage to the numbers. Manage the people to get the numbers!
- Communicate. Research suggests that of all the communication employees receive, less than 1% addresses the call to action and the reasons behind it. Use the 7-by-7 rule. That is, if you want your employees to get a real understanding of your message, you must say it at least seven times in seven different ways … or they won’t get it.
By the way, last year they achieved record results in the areas of cost, quality, safety and service!