Posts Tagged ‘Buy-In’

Before you can get buy-in, people need to feel the problem

Picture this: you’re in the middle of presenting your proposal and a person at the far end of the table raises her hand. “I’m not even sure the ‘problem’ you’re describing exists, or is a big deal at all!” How do you deal with that?

From reading your responses to my previous posts, I find that many people aren’t able to even reach the point where they can debate the merits of their proposal. Many get bogged down in the quagmire of trying to effectively communicate the nature and extent of the problem. If you can’t do that, it doesn’t much matter what your proposal is. People aren’t going to consider anything until they are convinced there is a problem that truly needs to be addressed.

Have you made the problem feel real?

In scenarios like this, I’ve found that it’s effective to highlight the problem and the people affected by it in a way that makes the problem feel real. What’s less effective — and far more common — is to make a dry business case that, even if correct, is usually less persuasive and less memorable than it needs to be.

424 gloves drive the message home

On this topic, one story I’ve always liked (from my book The Heart of Change) I affectionately call “Gloves on the Boardroom Table.” A large organization had an inefficient purchasing process, and one mid-level executive believed that money was constantly being wasted with each of the organization’s factories handling their own purchases. He thought there could be tremendous savings from consolidating the procurement effort. He put together a “business case” for change but it went nowhere. His boss said that senior executives didn’t feel it was truly a big problem, especially with so many other daily challenges taking up their time.

So the manager had an idea: he collected the 424 different kinds of work gloves the factories collectively purchased and tagged each one with its different price and supplier. He carted the gloves in and dumped them on the boardroom table before a senior
executive team meeting. He first showed the pile to his boss, who was taken aback by this powerful visual display of the waste inherent in having dozens of different factories negotiate different deals for the items they needed!

The boss showed the CEO, who scrapped the meeting agenda to talk about procurement because what he was looking at was so memorable, so compelling, and so real. It galvanized the executives to action. Ultimately, they overhauled their procurement process and saved a great deal of money.

See, feel, change

I’ve called the process used here See, Feel, and Change, as opposed to Analyze, Think, and Change. The latter is all head, no heart, and often fails to motivate people to recognize the importance of a given problem. It’s too easily forgotten or ignored if it doesn’t feel real.

Highlight the personal, real consequences of the problem you want people to see

So what is my everyday advice if you can’t always collect, catalogue, and cart around 424 pairs of gloves? One way is to highlight the real, personal consequences of the problem you want people to see, and to highlight the real people who suffer because of it.

My newer book, Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down, features a story of someone presenting a plan to provide new computers for a local library. When dissenters don’t listen because they don’t think there is a problem with the current computers, the presenter has two options. He could use PowerPoint slides to compare the library’s computers to current computer models sold in stores, showing the difference in processing power, memory capacity, and modem speed. Or he could relate the true story of a local fourth-grader from a poor family who relies on the library’s computers for homework — computers that are too slow and outdated to allow her to finish her assignments, leaving her underprepared for school.

Which case would you find more compelling? Which case makes the problem feel real?

See also:

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down

Influential Fundraiser: Using the Psychology of Persuasion to Achieve Outstanding Results

To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

Image credits: Harvard Business Review, harborfreight, channelview

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Naysayers, roadblocks, and ways forward: Building consensus around your fundraising plan

This was originally posted at FrontRangeSource.com.

Last week, Ann and I attended a great session of our Consultant Leadership Forum at the Denver Foundation. It’s a group of about 30 consultants – from a variety of backgrounds – who serve the nonprofit sector in our area.

We gather once every couple of months and our conversation generally centers around a particular book or article.  The sessions are curated by CausePlanet (and if you haven’t checked out their great site, it’s chock FULL of wonderful resources).

Last week we talked about the book Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down by John P. Kotter and Lorne A. Whitehead.  It’s all about how you present your ideas and work them through to consensus.

Sound like something that fundraisers need to think about?  We’d say YES!

The best fundraising programs are constantly reinventing. While we always want to use best practice and learn from testing, we also need to look for new ways to engage and deepen our relationships with our donors.

But very rarely in a nonprofit organization are you able to implement fundraising ideas without generating consensus around them.  And as fundraisers if we don’t generate buy-in for our ideas, who gets the blame when they don’t work? We do.

And rightly so. Because if done properly, fundraising speaks volumes about the ethos, character, and potential of the organization.  A bad fundraising strategy can boomerang back to the whole organization and give it a black eye.  It needs to be properly vetted.

But generating buy-in for fundraising ideas doesn’t come easy.  To begin with, people are often skeptical at best, hostile at worst, about fundraising.  Add to that a few misconceptions and a dose of  “that’s too much work” and you’ve got yourself a big fat zero – the status quo.

In our practice, we work hard to build consensus around fundraising ideas.  We try to get as many people as possible to put ideas on the table.  And then we use our experience to craft a vision and strategy that is then taken back to various constituencies and we ask them to improve it, punch holes in it, make it better.

What we emerge with is a better, stronger, fundraising plan that everyone feels they own.

Along the way, we find that there are plenty of “naysayers” as the authors Kotter and Whitehead call them and they are the folks who can derail buy-in (generally unknowingly) through four strategies:

1.  Idea killer: This is when irrelevant facts are introduced that muddy the conversation enough so that people are bewildered and move away from the idea.

Roadblock: We see this most often when people who have been in an organization for a long time bring up something similar to the new idea that was tried before.  They can throw all kinds of information into the process about something that no one remembers and so can’t refute.

Way forward: If this happens, we try to “park” the past and encourage the group to go back to real data to draw lessons from what really happened.

2.  Death by delay: This is when people balk at new ideas because they seem like too much work.  It’s the “we have too much on our plate already” line of thinking.

Roadblock: This is a typical one in fundraising and nonprofit work.  We’ve all heard this, right?

Way forward: The way we deal with this tactic is to give people a magic wand: “What would it take for this to happen?”  “Let’s pretend we had all the resources and time in the world. How do rate that idea now?”

3.  Fear mongering: This is when something emotional is brought up in the conversation that stops movement and raises anxiety.   It’s basically pushing hot buttons.

Roadblock: We see this a lot in the form of “this other organization sent me something like this and I hated it” or “This won’t work, I never answer the telephone and no one else does either.”

Way forward: We actually do an exercise where we ask people to stand up and repeat after us, “We are not the donor”.  We encourage decision-making based on facts, numbers, and our own unique donor audience, not on how we feel about fundraising personally.

4.  Ridicule and character assassination: This is when someone plants doubting seeds about the person whose idea it is. “No one else does this” or “you don’t know that” are two variations on this theme.

Roadblock: This doesn’t seem to happen that often directly in our experience, but insidious comments (that you aren’t quite sure how to take) are common and ideas are much more readily accepted if it’s someone who is at the top of the organization than further down the ladder.

Way forward: This is why it’s so important to gather all different points of view.  The best ideas come from the front lines and the front desk.  The top doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas, so we make sure everyone is heard.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In our Consultant Leadership Forum session, we discussed the idea of actually putting these four roadblock behaviors up for discussion before we even begin any sort of process. Maybe if we started by naming them, we’d all be more conscious. So few of us are even aware that we are doing these things.

In fact, I KNOW that I have been guilty of a few myself!  How about you? Have you had any experiences with fundraising naysayers?  How did you work around it to build consensus?

See also:

Ideas we discussed during the session: CLF.PeerIdeasBuildingBuyIn.July18.2013

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Is your sense of urgency working for or against you?

Due to the overextended and under-resourced nature of the nonprofit sector, it’s easy to look around your organization and misdiagnose your busy staff and hyperactive meeting schedule as having a sense of urgency. A Sense of Urgency author, John Kotter, argues otherwise.

Is your urgency true or false? Organizations that are truly inspiring transformative change don’t suffer from endless busy work; the employees have a sense of purpose, an emotional attachment to the aspirational goal and shed low-priority activities in pursuit of meaningful milestones that mark progress. The social sector is a breeding ground for these false diagnoses of urgency, and nonprofit leaders must root out busy work in favor of smarter, inspired progress toward game-changing goals.

What’s the single biggest error people make? Two years prior to publishing A Sense of Urgency, it occurred to Kotter how often he was being asked, “What is the single biggest error people make when they try to change?” More than 10 years of research, hundreds of interviews with managers and three books on the subject told him leaders did not create a high enough sense of urgency among enough people to set the stage for making a challenging leap into some new direction.

What managers had to say This observation inspired Kotter to test the idea and probe deeper by systematically asking managers a new set of questions. For example, “How high is the sense of urgency among relevant people around you?” And, “If it’s too low, what exactly are you doing to change this fact?”

Here are the interesting conclusions resulting from these questions:

1. At the beginning of an effort to create change, if a sense of urgency is not high enough and complacency is not low enough, everything else becomes so much more difficult.
2. Complacency is much more common than we might think and very often invisible to the people involved. Success easily produces complacency and it doesn’t have to be recent.
3. The opposite of urgency is not only complacency, but false or misguided urgency which is more insidious. False urgency is driven by anxiety, anger and frustration. It’s characterized by a frantic feeling.
4. Mistaking what you might call false urgency for real urgency is a huge problem today.
5. It is possible to recognize false urgency and complacency and transform them into a true sense of urgency. The book describes these strategies.
6. Urgency is becoming increasingly important because change is shifting from episodic to continuous. Continuous change requires sustaining urgency.

Visit www.KotterInternational.com for more information about the John Kotter and his best-selling books.

See also:

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down

The Three Laws of Performance

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Success: A breeding ground for complacency?

This piece first appeared on the blog, Great Leadership.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It makes smart people think they can’t lose.”

Bill Gates said that, and he’s exactly right. More often than not, great accomplishments cause individuals and organizations to become comfortable with their way of doing things. Businesses turn static. Workers turn their focus inward. Even the most dynamic of organizations can turn complacent, thinking that what they are doing is right, that there is no need to change, regardless of what’s happening outside.

Here’s one example: This summer, the Washington Post asked me to comment on the debt ceiling debate. At the time, congressmen were busy deflecting blame for the dire economic circumstances gripping the country. Negotiations were gridlocked. A deal to stave off economic calamity seemed out of reach. I wrote that Washington suffered from a “complacency cancer,” that after 250 years as the nerve center of the most prosperous, innovative, militarily and economically advanced nation in modern history, success had gone to our political leaders’ heads. They were resting on their laurels, refusing to change, confident that the old way of doing business would suffice. The same behavior was on display just a few weeks ago, as the congressional “super committee” failed to reach a deficit-reduction deal.

The complacency cancer plagues the private sector as well. I recently read about a study that found successful companies to be far less likely than their weaker counterparts to pursue large-scale change. My own research over more than three decades has shown the same results: despite being better prepared to take bold action, companies with a high level of achievement tend to feel content with the status quo. They sit tight. They focus on themselves. And they ignore the rapidly changing world around them, even in the face of cold, hard facts that clearly show the need to move in a new direction.

It’s plain to see how foolish this thinking is, but no one is immune—not you, not I, not even the most intelligent, experienced leaders. Yet, in today’s constantly changing world, complacency is a recipe for disaster. As a leader, you must do everything in their power to identify it and root it out.

Here are some questions you can ask to determine whether complacency has set in among your employees:

Are team conversations inwardly focused, and not about new markets, emerging technologies or potential competitors?

Are past failures discussed only to stall new initiatives, rather than as learning experiences?

Do important meetings end with no decisions about what needs to happen immediately?

Do workers regularly blame others for problems, as opposed to taking responsibility and changing behavior?

Are highly selective facts used to shoot down data that suggests there is a major challenge or opportunity knocking at the door?

If the answer to most of these questions is “yes,” then complacency has taken root. Before it continues to spread, you must take action to instill a sense of urgency in your employees.

Determine what challenges and opportunities are out there. Discuss them with other senior leaders so those at the top have real clarity about where the organization is headed. Then, communicate that opportunity to your workers, keeping each of the following tips in mind:

Appeal to the head and the heart. Sales figures and spreadsheets can help people start thinking differently, but they’re not going to convince them to change their behavior and take the kind of action needed to move an organization in a new direction. That takes an appeal to the heart. Make a rational case, but do it in a compelling way to win over hearts and minds.

Bring the outside in. If inward focus is the problem, attention to outward reality is the answer. Share outside perspectives. Shed light on troubling data. Listen to customer-facing employees. Each of these tools can be persuasive in helping people see that the outside world is changing—and so, too, must their organization.

Behave with true urgency. Lead by example. If you’re expecting your employees to change, you must change first. Demonstrate your own sense of urgency—in meetings, in emails, during speeches and in one-on-one interactions—and never let up.

Find opportunity in crises. Always look for the upside possibilities. Crises are threats, to be sure. But destabilizing experiences, if navigated carefully and harnessed effectively, can be powerful drivers of change.

Deal with the naysayers. There will always be skeptics. But then there are people who, for whatever reason, simply do not want change. These people, especially if powerful, can be dangerous. The key is to confront them head-on. Do not try to co-opt them or ignore them. It won’t work. Instead, distract them by sending them on special assignments, expose the fallacies in their behavior for all to see, or, if all else fails, push them out of the organization. That bitter pill is sometimes necessary to fight the complacency cancer.

As urgency takes hold, complacency vanishes. Now, your organization is on the path to true success: able to adapt, to change, and to continually seize big opportunities.

See also:

A Sense of Urgency

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

 

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Lead change, make it stick and get in on the big opportunity

Thirty years of research by leadership have proven that 70% of all major change efforts in organizations fail. Why do they fail? Because organizations often do not take the holistic approach required to see the change through.

However, by following “The 8 Step Process for Leading Change,” organizations can avoid failure and become adept at change. By improving their ability to change, organizations can increase their chances of success, both today and in the future. Without this ability to adapt continuously, organizations cannot thrive.

My years of research have proven that following “The 8-Step Process for Leading Change” will help your organization succeed.

 

Step 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency

  • Examine market and competitive realities
  • Identify and discuss crises, potential crises or major opportunities

Step 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition

  • Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort
  • Encourage the group to work as a team

Step 3: Developing a Change Vision

  • Create a vision to help direct the change effort
  • Develop strategies for achieving that vision

Step 4: Communicating the Vision for Buy-in

  • Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies
  • Teach new behaviors by the example of the Guiding Coalition

Step 5: Empowering Broad-based Action

  • Remove obstacles to change
  • Change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision
  • Encourage the risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions

Step 6: Generating Short-term Wins

  • Plan for visible performance improvements
  • Create those improvements
  • Recognize and reward employees involved in the improvements

Step 7: Never Letting Up

  • Use increased credibility to change systems, structures and policies that don’t fit the vision
  • Hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision
  • Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents

Step 8: Incorporating Changes into the Culture

  • Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success
  • Develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession

One of the most common questions I hear in working with business leaders is, “Now that we’ve embarked on this transformation, how do I make sure these changes stick?” The answer is simple: keep at it. Cultural shifts happen in organizations when new behaviors are displayed, over and over again, to achieve results. Those new behaviors soon become the norm, and sustainable change begins to take hold.

In an interview with Kotter International Senior VP, Mike Evans, I discuss what it takes to make change stick. Here is a transcript of that interview.

Mike Evans:  John, the final step of the 8-Step Process for Leading Change is embedding the change into the culture into the organization. How do you make it stick?

John Kotter:  Well, you get it into the culture. That’s how you make it stick. But the way that happens is you get people to behave in a new way. You make sure it’s a smart new way so you get better results. You make sure that those results maintain themselves over time, not two months, which means people have got to continue to do it in the new way. What happens, I’m not sure why, ask the social anthropologist, but when people behave in a new way, it gets good results and it sustains itself for a while, it just kind of sinks into the DNA of the group, into the culture. Once it’s in there, that’s the anchor that helps things stick.

Mike Evans:  Here’s something that just shot into my thinking process: here is the example of Southwest with Herb Kelleher, the leadership team that built a culture that produced phenomenal business results, a great place to work, devoted, committed employees.

John Kotter:  Astonishing story.

Mike Evans:  Herb leaves, the leadership team leaves, and yet the culture remains the same.

John Kotter:  They drove enough of that totally changed, different way of running an airline, not just into behavior that was being driven by a single personality or behavior that went on for a year, got great yearly performance, the analysts were happy and let it slip away. Because they got it into the culture and the method again is get the people to behave in a way, get enough success, hold onto it enough and it automatically just kind of takes care of itself. It sounds too simple but human groups actually, that’s the way they behave.

Mike Evans:  I just recently had the experience with a client and the CEO asked the question, how will we know when this is in the culture? The response I provided to him was that you’ll know when you can leave and you know that your presence is no longer necessary to sustain that.

John Kotter:  Not a bad answer.

See also:

Leading Change

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas from Getting Shot Down

A Sense of Urgency

www.kotterinternational.com

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“Seize Your Big Opportunity” Contest

The nonprofit organization is no stranger to the necessity of buy-in. Be it building a case for support or engaging a board of directors to make a change, buy-in can make or break an organization on a small and large scale.

Without understanding how potential attacks can disrupt consensus around important change, leaders are leaving their organizational growth to chance and potentially empty attacks or unfounded fears of naysayers.

At CausePlanet, we recently featured John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead’s book, Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas from Getting Shot Down. With the benefit of Kotter and Whitehead’s counterintuitive approach, nonprofit leaders can get smart about how objections are formed and delivered as well as overcome them, critical skills for any situation where two or more opposing viewpoints are likely to surface.

In addition to providing responses to common objections in their book, the authors also suggest eight steps for successful, large-scale change:

1. Increase urgency: Urgency breeds energy and focus and motivates complacent people.
2. Build the guiding coalition: A strong group of respected leaders emerge—not appointed or forced.
3. Get the vision right: Ask, “How would we look differently in the future if successful and what strategies will get us there?”
4. Communicate for buy-in: Communicate vision and strategies relentlessly and through a variety of channels.
5. Empower action: The guiding coalition eliminates obstacles and empowers people to create change.
6. Create short-term wins: With visibility and clarity, build momentum by acknowledging progress so cynics lose their power.
7. Keep at it: Maintain urgency, keep the wins coming and never let up until changes are made.
8. Make change stick: Structures, systems and promotion process should support the new order. The new emerging culture is the glue of change.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kotter’s work beyond Buy-In, John Kotter is the Konosuke Matsuhita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School. Kotter is a best-selling author (Leading Change, The Heart of Change, A Sense of Urgency, among others) and widely considered the world’s foremost authority on leadership and change. He is the founder of Kotter International, a firm designed to guide global leaders in transformational leadership.

Slated to launch this month, Seize Your Big Opportunity is a contest that will give leaders the chance to enter to win a free day-long workshop, called a Big Opportunity Session, with experienced change practitioners from Kotter International. KI’s change practitioners will help senior leaders focus on their highest-priority business goals and the opportunities they represent for their organization, then build alignment around these critical opportunities and begin to develop the competencies to lead large-scale change.

During each day-long session, Kotter International will help leaders align around their firm’s “big opportunity,” which is a picture of what the organization can possibly achieve in relationship to changes happening right now in the world around it. It’s a call to action that appeals to employees’ heads and hearts, compelling them to change because they want to, not because they have to. In each session Kotter International will help facilitate creation of a powerful Big Opportunity statement that the leadership team buys into, can stand behind, and clearly defines the opportunity the organization has in leading proactive change.

Seize Your Big Opportunity is open to organizations of all types and sizes – businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, government agencies, and others are all eligible. After an initial nomination round where organizations submit a brief overview of how and why they want to change, Kotter International will invite organizations with the most compelling cases to submit a more detailed application. Organizations that demonstrate their goals are achievable, their senior leaders are committed to the Big Opportunity, and that they have the capacity to build on the lessons of a one-day session will be selected as winners.  There is no limit on the number of winners who will be selected.

Visit Kotter International website for more books and resources from John Kotter or visit our Page to Practice book summary highlights and subscribe for more information and an author interview about Buy-In and other books in our summary library.

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We’ve been successful so why change?

How many times have you heard this phrase in the title or something similar to it? In this month’s Page to Practice book summary about Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead, we asked Kotter “If naysayers typically deploy four different attack tendencies such as death by delay or fear mongering, is it ever necessary to prepare for someone displaying multiple attack strategies or do people generally stick to one?” Here’s what Kotter had to say:

Kotter: Yes, it’s absolutely necessary to prepare for someone deploying multiple attack strategies. Naysayers most often do employ more than one tactic at the same time, as I mentioned before. The best way you can prepare for this is by becoming thoroughly familiar with the four basic strategies and the 24 generic questions and their responses, which will enable you to effectively address even the more complex combinations.

Take, for example, the attack, “We’ve never done it that way before.” I think this attack is a combination of numbers 1 (We’ve been successful, so why change?), 12 (If this is such a great idea, why hasn’t it been done already) and 20 (It won’t work here, because we’re so different). A smart response incorporates tactics that will diffuse all three. First, do not treat the people raising this attack as moronic for not seeing the need for change. Acknowledge their concern, but remind them that life evolves and to continue to succeed, we need to be open to adapting.

Second, remind your audience that someone has to try a new idea out for the first time, and if we are the innovative organization we claim to be, why shouldn’t it be us? Third, remind them that while your organization is unique, it’s not different from others that are seeking to change for the better. And incorporate a simple, specific example that your audience can relate to. More often than not you’ll face an attack like this – one that combines elements from several different attacks – so it’s important to understand how to respond most effectively.

For more information about Buy-In and other great books, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit our Page to Practice book summary library.

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Keep your great ideas from getting shot down

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this month’s feature called Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead (Harvard Business Press, 2011). Not only because the book is well-written and thoughtfully explained, but because the applications are virtually everywhere in life and work.

Buy-In is about effectively presenting your great ideas—and protecting them. Often, we get so caught up in creating the ultimate solution that we forget to communicate it properly so everyone is engaged in the transformation we want to implement. More specifically, Buy-In is also about leading change among naysayers who would rather preserve the status quo. Unfortunately, Kotter and Whitehead say multiple studies report that when significant change is needed, 70 percent of the time people back away, go into denial and fail to implement change under budget and within deadlines. Thanks to the authors’ business experience and diligent research, this book isolates naysayers’ attacks into four primary categories and explains how to overcome those different objections. Equally valuable, Kotter and Whitehead specifically illustrate how to prepare for strategic implementation of large-scale change.

Below is an excerpt from our interview with John Kotter:

CausePlanet: Your approach toward leadership and change is a unique one. What inspired you to write Buy-In?

Kotter: Buy-in is a very basic issue and one that appears in several of my previous books, most notably Leading Change. Buy-in is the act of getting people to listen to you, understand your ideas and overcome hesitation they have about supporting them. But asking people to support your idea is part of a much larger process, one that I’ve found throughout my research to be essential in making significant changes actually happen. I outline this 8-step process in Leading Change, and buy-in is step 4. People spend so much time developing good ideas, maybe because of a problem they or their company face, or because they see an opportunity for positive change. But there is very little knowledge out there about how to successfully implement these good ideas. Unless you can win support for your idea from people at all levels of your organization, you can’t move forward. Along with the team at my firm, Kotter International, we help people understand how to move forward, how to go from talking about significant, powerful change to making it happen. And in our work, we found that this one particular step—winning buy-in—is something people really struggle with. So I felt very strongly that it was something we needed to help people understand better and learn how to do well.

For more discussion about the buy-in process or how to purchase the book, visit John Kotter’s blog.

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