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Why "Buy-in" is Not Enough!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
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Recently, I was in a Leadership Development class with a new client (a global multi-national organization), an executive leader for the organization was presenting to a group of front line managers about managing change in a complex environment. He had many credible ideas to share with these leaders, yet the one that really stood out for me was his comment that “buy-in is not enough”. I was captivated by the concept, how true it is!  “Buy-in” IS NOT always enough to motivate people to act, to change or to get involved. Getting “buy-in” requires a consistent effort to communicate not only the strategy, but also the rationale behind the strategy. People are curious by nature, and are much more likely to support a new idea when they understand the “why” behind the change.

To get beyond “buy-in” and move to commitment and implementation, individual change will be more likely when the following three concepts are encouraged:

  1. Stay connected to supportive people – Building, nurturing and maintaining positive relationships is essential to encourage and reinforce necessary change
  2. Develop (and apply) new skills as needed – Change often requires developing a new approach or new skills… and then applying them, over and over again!
  3. Reframe your thinking – The final key is to allow and accept new ways of thinking; sustained change is highly unlikely without fully embracing the new approach.      

Great examples of these strategies are in one of my favorite books “Change or Die”, the author Alan Deutschman provides a comprehensive analysis of the key factors that create lasting change for both individuals and organizations. 
As we know, organizational change is constant and sometimes illogical by nature. It requires a few key elements to support all aspects of both small and large scale change. The three aspects below provide the context (or the “why”) that can turn simple “buy-in” to commitment and implementation.
Consider External Influences

  • Identify the business challenge or opportunity
  • Define all resource needs (people, technology, time and of course money)
  • Clarify the Vision for the Future (products, services, impact on local and/or global community)
  • Build the strategic plan

Leverage Internal Resources

  • Ensure alignment with core values
  • Gain commitment at all levels
  • Develop a tactical plan

Implement with Excellence

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  • Build strategies to satisfy shared need
  • Integrate the plan into action Marketing and business development
  • Monitoring and measuring progress and results

In practice “buy-in” is viewed as an employee who is “on-board” or who agrees with the idea or concept being presented, yet according to www.dictionary.com the definition is a bit different:

buy-in (noun)

  1. An act or instance of buying in.
  2. The deliberate submission of a false bid, too low to be met, inorder to win a contract.
  3. Poker. the chips purchased by a player from the banker,occasionally a set amount required to enter a specific competition or game.

As you move forward with managing change in your organization, you must ask these key questions:

  1. How engaged are all stakeholders in this change process?
  2. What communication is needed to help provide clarity about the change?
  3. What is the plan to maintain drive and build commitment to sustain the change?
  4. How will we measure success (or failure)? 

Remember that “buy-in” is not enough to move people to commitment and action; you need a full scale strategic approach to manage change successfully.

About the Author
Maureen Orey is an award-winning international speaker and best-selling author with more than 25 years of experience in management, leadership, training, and career development. She has worked in many industries, including technology, healthcare, construction, hospitality, and education. As President of Workplace Learning & Performance Group, she is dedicated to working with inspired individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance so they can achieve their desired results. Workplace Learning & Performance Group was the 2014 winner of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Award. Maureen is the best-selling author of Communication Skills Training, published by ASTD Press, as well as the author of Successful Staffing in a Diverse Workplace, published by Richard Chang Associates. She is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP), and holds an MA in Education from the University of San Diego and a BA in Psychology from San Diego State University. She was recognized as the 2008 Outstanding Instructor of the Year for San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies. In addition to her work in the private sector, she has taught at five local universities and is currently an adjunct professor at UC San Diego and Brandman University. She recently completed her first year of doctoral studies in Organizational Leadership at Brandman University.
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