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Think You Need Buy-In for Successful Change Management? Think Again

You need people, not just their buy-in, for successful change management. Here’s how to get everyone on board.
The Human Priority
The Human Priority

“What do you think?” 

How often do you ask your team this question? 

How important is their answer to you?

If you’re leading a change initiative and you want it to go well, this question is a must-ask.

But too often, we go into a room, design a change initiative, and proceed to tell stakeholders what the change is and why we’re making it. We didn’t really take into account that the people involved can help us create better solutions. 

 

Here’s Why We Need People, Not Just Their ‘Buy-In’

Too often, we can unintentionally marginalize our team during a change initiative. While winning ‘buy-in’ is a well-intentioned and common practice, we are ready to go further in today’s workplace. Today, we need to break down the silos of “us vs. them” and realize we are co-creators of great things. 

The truth is: If you involve your stakeholders in the process, you will get better solutions and outcomes!

Why is this true? 

  1. You’ll have more diverse perspectives to inform your solution.
  2. More people will be highly engaged and invested in implementing the solution. 
  3. You’ll gain the trust and credibility of your stakeholders. 

At the end of the day, what we design in a vacuum rarely survives. While you might have a great idea and gain initial traction, people are ultimately more invested in what they are a part of creating.

 

How to Move Beyond Buy-In and Involve Others

Approach it with a new perspective. Start with the premise that the collective mind yields greater results and build systems to support co-creation. Avoid thinking you can understand the problem from a distance. 

As leaders we can only be so close to the day-to-day operations; we have limited understanding of the impact a change will really make. You need someone close to what is going on to create the best solutions.

For example: When someone proposes a solution to the problem of calls not being answered in a call center, they need to actually shadow a rep at the call center, and involve your call reps in the solution. 

Gather perspective from as many team members and stakeholders as possible. This gives us the opportunity to learn from others about their ideas, not just get them to go along with ours. Go to where the action is. Hang out with your team members. Ask them what they think. Listen intently to their answers.

Share your ideas and thoughts as a team. Co-create together. Check back often. Engage in conversations during the good times and the bad, as well as when you are building new things. Build bridges, and more importantly, build relationships. Share with people how their ideas are being used. In this way, people will start coming to you proactively to share their ideas and challenges. This is what builds a co-creative community where we are all leaders, all designers, all builders.

When we need solutions—when we are creating something new, better, stronger—we can make the mistake of thinking that it’s more expedient to create with a smaller group. However, the time you spend to get a larger group oriented to the project, to generate and talk through a greater number of ideas, is worth it! 

Be patient. Know that it can take time to build trust and get to the real answers. People need to know you actually want their opinion, especially if it is different from your own.

There is a return on your investment when you put aside the idea of ‘buy-in” and bring people together to co-create a solution.

Start today by asking the simple but all-powerful question, “What do you think?”  

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