MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for:How do you get buy in for a new idea? is written by Dominique Jones, vice president of human resources at Halogen.
Organizational change is hardly ever easy, but in the world of business it is both inevitable and necessary. Whether it’s capitalizing on a market opportunity, maximizing the efficiency of a process, improving a product/service or responding to a crisis, organizations face change every day. While change management presents an array of challenges, perhaps the biggest challenge is getting people across the organization to buy into the process. People inherently don’t like change. The key to getting that needed buy in? Get those most impacted by the change to understand its value.
But before we dive any deeper, let’s define organizational buy in. In decision making, “buy in” means a commitment of decision-makers and those affected to give support to a decision or action. While change might not be the most popular thing, buy in means that the merit of the change is understood and reinforced by action. If you are trying to create organizational buy in for a new idea, project or policy, remember that your goal is to get support for an action or decision. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help ease the process for yourself and the rest of the organization.
Clearly understand the change
Before asking others to support a change, you must first become an expert on it. This allows you to clearly articulate the details of the change initiative so you can be prepared to answer questions about it. Gather as much information about the change as possible before communicating it to others. It’s also important for you to view the change as an opportunity (otherwise you won’t be able to convince others of its merit).
Discuss the change as early as possible
This not only helps minimize the impact, but it also makes it a lot easier to get consensus on the value of the change. People are more likely to support a decision if they feel they have been involved in its formulation. Be open to feedback and prepared to address resistance, particularly if the change is non-negotiable.
Articulate the business value of the change
In the buy in conversation, ensure the individual or team understands how the change will benefit the organization. If there is a problem or challenge prompting the change, discuss the past issue that necessitated the change and outline how the change will help address it.
Discuss how the change will affect the team or the individual
Articulate how the change will affect roles and responsibilities, if at all. Get everyone to agree on what the change is and why it’s happening. Be empathetic yet firm in communicating the changes. Address concerns or fears right away and identify the root cause. Then solicit ideas on how best to address them.
Understand your audience
Remember that in a buy in conversation, it’s about them (i.e. your audience). If you want to gain their support, you must deliver the message their way by taking into account their communication style. Discuss the change at a time that works for them and in an environment they are comfortable in.
After you have discussed the change, answered questions and listened to suggestions, it is time to confirm support. Be clear with what you are asking. Buy in is not about vague responses – get a clear yes or no. If you receive a no, revisit step four.
Ensure you follow up as soon as possible with any comments that have been made. Continue to follow up throughout the change process to identify any questions, obstacles or challenges. Then work with your team to find a solution to any issues.
Read all responses to the MPW Insider question: How do you get buy in for a new idea?
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