It's not always easy to get buy in on a project or a strategy. Fortunately many have blazed the dusty road of pitching ideas and many have succeeded. But, how did they do it?
Obtaining buy in is one of the most overlooked elements of both lean and six sigma. Especially if you are on the front lines and see the issues first hand. That frontline connection with what is going on often makes the ideas you have, something that you're passionate about. Well the solution is simple, make others passionate about that same thing too and you will obtain buy in. Okay, not so simple. But let's look at a few important elements that will help show others just what, why, how, when and where we gained this passion for a specific improvement or strategic initiative. These tips will help you gain buy in on both strategic and tactical level initiatives.
The first step towards gaining buy in is to share what it is you want to do. Believe it or not most great ideas fail at this first step. Either the improvement never gets brought up or for other reasons it gets turned down and that's the end. Before identifying what it is you want to do, understand first the direction the organization is headed. This may require you to become more familiar with either the organization or the leader's vision and mission in order to ensure that what you want to do is aligned with the direction of the organization. Another good idea when seeking buy in is to speak with others about what it is you would like to do, this gives you an opportunity to gather support and in many cases hear what others think about your pitch. Speaking with others may also give you insight pertaining to other attempts at similar projects and challenges. Historical evidence and support can give a much firmer grasp on your business case and will pay off big time when the opportunity arises for you to present your business case.
After defining what it is you want to do, be sure to keep your ears open. Sometimes after you express what you want to do others will agree and anymore explaining may frustrate or talk yourself out of the initiative. Most of the time you will need to back your business case with why you are making the suggestion. This can come from any number of evidences. The first one might be to show the current performance of what it is you are trying to improve. Highlight critical issues and try to show others why it is the issues are causing so much pain. After showing the current state performance, assessment or analysis providing a benchmark helps your audience to understand not just why you're suggesting the improvement but it helps clarify why you feel the improvement will be a success. By gathering benchmarks you can show others success and help them understand what is possible. Just be sure the benchmarks that you share are somewhat similar or that you have a very clear model of "how" you will make your why connect. The last very important thing to share with executives or managers is the ROI. Typically the ROI is the why most people are interested. For instance, "If we invest 40 hours of resource time, we can generate $200,000 dollars in savings." That statement provides a very definitive answer to why we should move forward and segways perfectly into our next topic for gaining buy in. How.
The how connects all of the dots for you. It brings context and reality to your benchmarks, interviews and every other piece of your business case. The how should lay out a very clear plan for how you will correct, improve or fix what it is you are suggesting and document how you will accomplish results related to your benchmarks and or ROI. Be sure that those you are suggesting your initiative to understand that training alone will not be enough for success. There must be buy in and continued action after training is complete. A change in culture and behavior is often the hardest how to explain, but it is a necessary explanation if you hope to gain support.
One common method of laying out the how is to first suggest or offer a "pilot project." The pilot project if a success will give executives a taste of how the how can be successful. It is a good idea to also lay out a 1 year plan that shows 2 years of results. Your one year plan can include projects, training and any other activities that might be needed to reach your objective. At each step of your plan no matter what the timeline you need to show how the plan will result in a return and accomplish the "what" that you first suggested. This makes it very easy for others to understand, they can connect the dots and see clearly how each piece forms a complete concept or initiative.
As part of your explanation of how you plan to accomplish results, you will also need to give a timeline of when you plan to execute the necessary activities. This allows the organization to plan for resources and funds that may be needed to support your initiative.
When we talk about where, we are not talking about where the projects will be conducted or where the strategy will take place. Although that may be helpful for large organizations. The where that we are talking about is where it will affect the company's bottom line. For example if a black belt completes three projects per year, where will those savings be applicable? The important thing here is to not just show where savings are applicable, but also where investments such as training, software, travel, supplies and other investments are applicable too. This gives executives or sponsors a clear understanding of what they need to put in and what they will get in return, allowing them to make a more educated decision. It is common knowledge that when all facts are laid out if buy in is accomplished you will have a much deeper level of support than if everything was not laid out.
Coordinating and connecting all these pieces of information will help you to gain buy in on suggestions and ideas. Most of the time connecting all the pieces to your proposal and making it easy to understand will get the job done. Although being able to tell a good story and supporting your story with real facts may have you leaving the room thinking, "did he just say, okay?"