Do you want to improve internal buy-in for major change initiatives? Start socializing your ideas internally.

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 21 April 2015

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I often get asked the question, "What is the biggest obstacle for gaining acceptance for internal change?” The answer is simple. Socialize your ideas and let your colleagues contribute to the outcome.

Without a doubt, change is hard. It's like doing a lobotomy on an organization. Just imagine, a company does things the same way for decades and suddenly some whippersnapper consultant comes in and tells them that everything has to be totally overhauled and changed. “What was wrong with the way it was done in the past?” most people would ask. Left to their own tendencies they would never embrace new behaviors. It's simply too disruptive and complicates the way they do their work. Most people are never told how the change is going to impact their lives, their work and their success.

The late Dr. Michael Hammer, the founder of the Reengineering movement, once told me that 80% of the reengineering/process redesign initiatives fail.  Half of those failures are due to lack of internal buy-in and acceptance, and the subsequent sabotage that occurs as a result. In fact, he encouraged me to start Inward so that people can be communicated with and persuaded about change in compelling, impactful and creative ways.

Change is like a romance and it is a slow process. It is about the people involved coming around and recognizing that the change is a good idea. It takes time, patience and a sequential process to get internal buy-in and acceptance. After that, you need to build understanding and provide training to demonstrate the benefits and the impact it has on individual careers and lives. You need to recognize and reward individuals for embracing the necessary new behaviors and their positive advocacy amongst their peers and colleagues.

So how to start this sequential slow process of change? Here are some helpful ideas and notions that can help you along the way.

1.     The best idea never comes from one individual. Change should be a team process that builds abundant mentality for participation, communication, idea exchange and regular dialogue from everyone involved. Make it a consensus teambuilding activity where everyone is striving for a clear vision of how to improve performance.
2.     Work hard to come up with a shared idea for the change program that is built on consensus. Don't rely on an individual leader to come up with the best idea on his/her own. It should be a senior leadership team activity.
3.     Make the change initiative important and draw your employee's attention to the program by giving it a branded name or logo. Make it identifiable and public rather than hiding behind closed strategic doors.
4.     Communicate about it frequently and clearly. Be prepared to answer questions honestly and with transparency.
5.     Don't assume that important change communications messages cascade throughout the organization seamlessly. You need to get on the road and meet with leadership teams, managers and rank-and-file through all hands meetings, experiential communications and events, and conversations with individuals and small groups.
6.     Make the change personal and meaningful at the individual functional area. Explain clearly why the company is embracing this change, what it means to the individual (what's in it for me?) and what new actions and behaviors (new ways of doing work) that will be required as a result of this change. If you don't tell them what to do differently they will more than likely not change at all.

If you would like to know more about some of the things you might do to socialize change within your organization please feel free to call me or email me at your convenience.