Change is a fundamental part of a business. Companies that avoid it or try to put it off will inevitably lose out to those that were willing to take a risk. Whether it’s capitalising on a new market opportunity, maximising the efficiency of processes, improving a product or responding to a difficult situation, organisations are in a constant state of change. While overseeing this change brings up an array of challenges, arguably the most difficult is getting others on board with new approaches and initiatives. People naturally resist change as it brings them outside their comfort zone. But the key to getting colleagues on board lies in clearly communicating the value of the change to those who will be most affected by it.
The term “buy-in” means a commitment of decision-makers and those affected to give support to a decision or action. Even though the change may be unpopular, getting colleagues on board with the idea means that its merit is understood and reinforced by action. If you are trying to create organisational buy-in for a new idea, project or policy, your goal is to gather support for a particular decision. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can follow to make the process smoother.
Understand the Change Inside Out
You can’t expect others to change if you aren’t clear on what is actually needed from them. You need to have thought through all the potential implications of the change before presenting it. That way you won’t be caught off-guard when tough questions arise from staff, which they inevitably will. They are being forced out of theirhabitual wayof doing things and will expect a solid justification. Gather as much information about the change as possible before communicating it to others. Furthermore, try toput yourself in their shoesand understand how the change is likely to impact their working day. It’s also important to view the change as an opportunity (it’s almost impossible to convince others of an idea if you don’t believe in it yourself).
Discuss the change as early as possible
Change is much more difficult to accept when it comes out of the blue. Raising the topic early helps to minimise the impact and makes it much easier to get consensus on the value of the change. People will be much more tolerant of the change if they feel they have had a role in its formulation. Be open to feedback and make a conscious effort to incorporate suggestions from others. But be prepared to be met with some resistance, especially if the change is non-negotiable.
Highlight the Business Value of the Change
By the end of the conversation, the team should understand how the change will benefit the company. If there is a problem or challenge raised in relation to the change, discuss the past issue that made the change necessary in the first place. Focus on how it will resolve a particular pain point within the organisation.
Outline How the Change Will Effect the Team or Individual
If the change will affect roles and responsibilities be clear on exactly what this will mean. Everyone should be singing from the same hymn sheet regarding what the change is and why it is happening. When communicating you should strike a balance between empathy and firmness. When concerns are raised, look for the root cause and then solicit ideas on how best to address them.
Know Your Audience
A buy-in conversation is all about the people you are addressing. If you want to gain support you need to deliver your message in a way that resonates with your audience. Bombarding non-technical departments with unnecessarily confusing jargon is a sure-fire way to breed discontent. Adapt your communication style to your audience. Discuss the change at a time that is convenient for them and in an environment they are comfortable in. Otherwise, you’ll get things off on the wrong foot from the get-go.
After you have discussed the change, answered questions and listened to feedback, it’s time to confirm support. You need to be direct in your approach. Buy-in doesn’t come about through vague responses – you need a clear yes or no. If you receive a no, revisit step four and spend more time thinking about the impact it will have on others.
Ensure you follow up as soon as possible with any comments that have been made. Failing to do so indicates a lack of care for those who will be effected. As the change gets underway, try to identify any unforeseen challenges or obstacles as soon as possible. Then take a proactive approach with the rest of your team to find a solution.