Gini Dietrich

Eight Steps for Getting Buy-In and Managing Change

By: Gini Dietrich | December 13, 2010 | 
30

It’s an interesting time at Arment Dietrich right now. We have the AD team and we have the Project Jack Bauer team and some of us are straddling both. To say I’m doing a great job at leading both teams is being overly nice. And because I’m not doing a great job, it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about and talking about with individuals on both teams. I’ve come to the conclusion that not only am I not leading both teams effectively, I’m not managing the change of adding a new business effectively.

When most people think about getting buy-in for their ideas, they think about it from the perspective of going to their boss with a great idea and having it shot down. There are plenty of books and articles written about how to present your idea to either your boss or the executive team to get buy-in. I suggest you take some time to read them if you really believe you have an idea and want to get buy-in.

But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the change or the idea coming form the top and not getting buy-in. If you’re an employee, think about how frustrating it is when you have an idea that is shot down. If you’re a business leader, have you ever had to institute change that you really believe in, but no one else did? That’s the kind of emotion I want you to feel as you read this.

Now, sometimes my team hates it when I blog about them. I can imagine it’s equal to bloggers writing about their home lives. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it sucks. Like really sucks. But the good news is, today I’m not talking about individuals on my team or my team as a whole. I’m talking about me. I’m talking about how I can lead two teams effectively, how I can continue growing Arment Dietrich while we build Project Jack Bauer, and about my role in creating the vision, communicating the change, and being transparent in everything that we do. It’s my job to manage the change and that’s why I’m taking an introspective look.

Lots and lots and lots of business leaders (and the books and articles I keep reading) tell me that change is good and, that if there is push-back, I’m doing something right. But let me tell you something. Just like when you have a great idea that is shot down, not having buy-in from your team is not fun. Even if it does mean the change is about to be made and buy-in is about to occur (which is what the experts say happen – first there is dissent and then there is buy-in).

This past weekend, I was doing some additional reading (remember I read, reflect, and then act … sometimes practicing on my team until I get it right) and I found Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. In the article, they cover eight steps for getting buy-in and managing change.

  1. Creating a sense of urgency
  2. Identifying a powerful guiding coalition
  3. Creating a vision
  4. Communication the vision
  5. Empowering others to act on the vision
  6. Planning for and creating short-term wins
  7. Consolidating improvements and producing still more change
  8. Institutionalizing new approaches

It’s funny. I’ve mentioned here that I’m honest to a fault. I believe in open and transparent communication. I know I tell people on my team things they shouldn’t know. It’s a strength and a weakness. Because of that, I really believe I do numbers one, three, four, and five exceptionally well…on the Project Jack Bauer side, but not necessarily the Arment Dietrich side.

Uh…so I’m 50/50? And only for one profit center, not both? That’s not good (unless I’m a baseball player).

I don’t have the perfect answer yet, other than getting really good at all eight of those steps. So I’d like to open this up to you. If you’ve ever had an idea that was shot down, what did you do to go back at it? If you’re a business owner or leader who has had to manage change, how did you do it so people were happy and moving toward one goal? If you’re on my team and you don’t mind telling me what I’m doing wrong in this open forum, I invite it. Let’s hear it!

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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30 responses to “Eight Steps for Getting Buy-In and Managing Change”

  1. a_greenwood says:

    I commend your commitment to transparency, but I have learned over the years in various management capacities that 100% buy-in is virtually impossible. That’s where leadership comes in.

  2. HowieSPM says:

    If only all Owners, Stakeholders, Managers cared as much about the Team. Individuals, and Business Success as you did. It’s much easier living in denial and acceoting truths. People always found it disarming that I would be honest about my weaknesses or failures even if some will never change.

    So to make things easier for you here are a better 8 Steps. Trust me they work. These have been proven during extensive studies lasting sometimes a whole hour at a time.

    1] Stock the Office Fridge with Triple Power energy drinks and serve only high octane espresso coffee 2] Synchronize all watches within a 3 mile radius (this is key!) 3] Spray Paint Rules on Walls of office work spaces (the more colorful the better) 4] kidnap the favorite pet of each employee. 5] Get a Vuvuzela. 6] Make sure every employee works under a disco ball and strobe light 7] Play nothing but the Charlie Brown Song in a 24/7 seamless loop. 8] Barricade the doors so people can not leave without permission.

    That should really help you implement change and your vision a lot faster than some corny business expert’s advice.

    Do you need me to send you my 736 page EBook?

  3. HowieSPM says:

    Sorry no edit with Livefyre what up with that:
    It’s much easier living in denial than accepting truths. (please revise this line when you read it!)

  4. Doug_Davidoff says:

    Gini,

    Great stuff. As you know I deal with this myself – with my team and the teams my clients have that we lead and impact.

    I’ve learned 2 things to add to your list:

    1. Buy-in is often overrated and can actually cause things to bog down. I’m not say that you should ream things down people’s throats, but it’s impossible to proof something will work or won’t (typically a key focus/barrier when trying to get buy in) until it does (or doesn’t).

    This led to my second lesson:

    2. The focus should be on action – are people acting as you want them to. If they are, you’ll get your progress, if they aren’t then that’s where the focus needs to be. There is a virtuous circle that exists:

    – Action leads to results (with postive or negative),
    – Results lead to experience,
    – Experience is the key for learning. Without experience we’re just debating our opinions. With experience we’re able to see what we did, and what happened when we did it. Was the outcome good/bad (did we like the outcome/not). From there we can learn valueable lessons, and
    – Valuable lessons impact Actions – which starts the process all over again. When living in the future (as you do) and trying to create something new and powerful (even in existing businesses)

    I think if you keep the focus on action and you all work to learn from the actions – the buy-in comes. Hope this helps.

  5. janbeery says:

    Gini,
    It is true, especially for women leaders, transparency can be a blessing and a curse. I’ve had to go into situations and create and manage complete overhaul of environments. I’ve also had to get huge change accomplished with out the power to command and so I had to create buy in from an existing team.
    Bottom line is, be cautious of how much you share. It’s kind of like parenting. You want to be mindful of how much info you put out there so your “charge” if you will remains confident in your ability to lead and keep things under control. Too much transparency can also be viewed as weakness.
    Gaining insight/input from your team empowers them and also shares an appropriate level of transparency. The outcome? A productive team taking responsibility, working together for a mutually agreed upon end result and ownership.
    Again,,,,,We have got to have a wine meeting!

  6. C_Pappas says:

    Hi Gini and Gini fans,

    I have had a lot of ideas that have been shut down and not because they were bad (well, maybe some) but because I couldnt convince the powers that be. I always seemed to have some question unanswered or some information missing. In some cases i practiced that old saying ‘better to ask for forgiveness than permission’ because I just knew I would get positive results and thats really what they need to see. Business owners have a lot of opportunity to help people in this category. I am fortunate to now be a part of a company that believes in accountability so if you have a vision and you are passionate about it. Then do it and see what happens. But if you fail, then you are accountable for that decision.

  7. C_Pappas says:

    Hi Gini and Gini fans,

    I have had a lot of ideas that have been shut down and not because they were bad (well, maybe some) but because I couldnt convince the powers that be. I always seemed to have some question unanswered or some information missing. In some cases i practiced that old saying ‘better to ask for forgiveness than permission’ because I just knew I would get positive results and thats really what they need to see. Business owners have a lot of opportunity to help people in this category. I am fortunate to now be a part of a company that believes in accountability so if you have a vision and you are passionate about it. Then do it and see what happens. But if you fail, then you are accountable for that decision.

  8. Very interesting, Gini. One of my current clients is an organizational change consultant so I rapidly ramped up my knowledge in this area on Saturday as we developed her resume. She talked about how you really can’t manage change. One of the other things that she said is something that at least 3 of my recent clients in multiple fields have said… when areas are functioning as individual silos instead of a cohesive team, communication is destroyed. In her consulting gigs, she has created buy-in by demonstrating the value of the change and conducting visioning sessions with groups composed of multiple factions (local government, press, contractors, architects, and a major league team owner in one case) to bring the projects back into focus… and she had success… with major corporations. I like win-wins.

  9. lesmckeown says:

    Incredibly complex advice follows:

    Just. keep. Going.

    Much love,

    – Les

  10. ginidietrich says:

    @lesmckeown Did you see I linked to you?! 🙂 I’m going. I definitely question myself, but I’m going. xoxo

  11. ginidietrich says:

    @JulieWalraven I’ve learned, through this process today, that even though I keep talking about the vision, I’m not communicating it effectively. Sometimes it helps to take emotion out, put it on paper, and let people respond.

  12. ginidietrich says:

    @C_Pappas I LOVE the ask for forgiveness mantra! I use it all the time with clients. Go forth and prosper!

  13. ginidietrich says:

    @janbeery You and I DEFINITELY need that wine meeting! Perhaps between the holidays??

  14. ginidietrich says:

    @Doug_Davidoff This is SUPER helpful! Thank you! Between you and @lesmckeown I should add you to my advisory board!

  15. ginidietrich says:

    @HowieSPM I have some questions:
    1. I used to do this – I don’t know why we did away with it because you’re right!
    2. Um. Why?
    3. Can we hire you to come paint our walls?
    4. Um. Why?
    5. You just want us to have a vuvuzela!
    6. Done, done and done!
    7. Can we add in other annoying songs?
    8. Deal.

  16. ginidietrich says:

    @a_greenwood Why does it have to be so darn hard??

  17. lesmckeown says:

    @ginidietrich i did see, that, yes, and I’m very appreciative. I think you’ll find a gracious (and private) thank you in your inbox 🙂

    Methinks you question yourself too much. You’re over-competitive, and mostly with yourself 🙂

    – Les

  18. ginidietrich says:

    @lesmckeown You’re right. And it really pains me to say that.

  19. Doug_Davidoff says:

    @ginidietrich @a_greenwood Because if were easy: a) everyone would be doing it so there wouldn’t be any value there, and (MORE IMPORTANTLY) b) it wouldn’t be any real fun and wouldn’t hold your attention.

  20. LesLent says:

    Ok… you asked. I’m of the opinion everyone is tuned to the same radio station…WIIFM. “What’s in it for me?” While it may sound a bit goofy I truely believe one of the things needed to get buy in is to communicate what the changes mean to them. The good and the bad. Maybe that’s what #2 means. Good luck!

  21. lesmckeown says:

    @ginidietrich @lesmckeown I know. Especially to me.

  22. lesmckeown says:

    @ginidietrich @Doug_Davidoff You mean we’re not already?

  23. Hi Gini,

    While I was at The Los Angeles Times, change management was a big deal as the business model was evolving. It’s a process, but transparency is huge. Have you read the book The Heart of Change Field Guide? It was required reading for all managers at The Times.

    I think the thing to keep in mind is that change is hard for most people. Whether you’re getting people to buy in or the one being asked to buy in.

    The one point that isn’t mentioned in the post above is celebrating progress. Short term wins shouldn’t just be planned for, but they should be loudly acknowledged. It can help build momentum and rally the troops.

    Reaching small and large milestones should be a huge part of the process, but getting employees enthused and feeling all warm and happy about those changes is key to success. Send a congratulatory email, have a donut party in the lunchroom, write your employees a hand-written note to thank them for reaching that goal (if you don’t have too many people).

    Change is easier to manage when people are acknowledged for their work and given encouragement and some old-fashioned thanks along the way. After all, it’s the employees who are solely responsible for instituting and embracing the change that is being mandate from on-high.

    Good luck, Gini!

  24. hackmanj says:

    @lesmckeown well said Les!

  25. batchoichoi says:

    Hello Gini,

    I’m interested.. Great post… Thanks for sharing..

    Friedland Law Center

  26. janbeery says:

    @ginidietrich Sounds like a plan!

  27. ginidietrich says:

    @LesLent Yeah, I get that. And I thought I was doing a good job of it. Guess not.

  28. ginidietrich says:

    @lesmckeown @Doug_Davidoff Oh heck no!

  29. a_greenwood says:

    @Doug_Davidoff @ginidietrich What he said. 😉

  30. a_greenwood says:

    @Doug_Davidoff @ginidietrich I just did a piece on teamwork you might find of interest: http://www.alexgpr.com/2010/12/room-for-improvisation/

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