Major Changes: Ensuring Organizational Buy-In

March 12, 2019

Obtaining organizational buy-in for major transitions in any organization is a Herculean endeavor, but it can be achieved with a thoughtful approach that considers many factors, including change definition to bi-directional dialogue,  multi-faceted guiding coalitions and communications leads, and incentives. Before you take on the next major change effort, consider the following elements:

Ensure a Focused Transformational Change Definition: To maximize organizational buy-in, major changes must be vigilantly defined with crystal-clear intended outcomes.  As we’ve discussed in our strategic planning overviews, a change program that has multiple, unrelated adjacency efforts will flounder as the organization attempts to decipher what is more and less important, and builds its own definition. Make sure you understand the non-negotiable aspects of the change, and center all activity and change communications on these focused components and outcomes, with clear whys.

Hear Every Voice, and Better Shape the Whys: As the change leaders crystallize the definition, ensure two-way dialogue with the naysayers in the organization.  People who resist change may be a major thorn in the change program’s success. Frequently, having a dialogue based on the root cause of concerns and fears can refine the change definition. A refined definition improves the adoption of change program communication and subsequent buy-in. Even where certain opposing views or worries are not fully addressed, these insights help shape the messaging. For more on addressing enterprise-wide concerns and the human risk factor, read HPA Senior Advisor Alex Nesbitt’s Keep the Change: Making Business Transformations Work.

Re-emphasize Step-By-Step Milestones in Communications: Dividing a major transformation or change effort into manageable modules and goals significantly boosts tangibility, access, and communication, and enables you to identify and tackle smaller hurdles as they arise. Creating a step-by-step plan enables adaptive planning and improvement, while permitting rapid and flexible change responses by module. Each step builds on the previous, with interim milestones bolstering organizational confidence. Those milestones then become the basis for ongoing communications.

Communicate Via Both Your Powerful Guiding Coalition, and your Mid-Level Change Agents: Too often, large transformational efforts lead to steering committees which include only the business unit and functional executive leaders who are impacted by the change. While this type of group is necessary for leadership communications alignment and cascading, it tends to convey passive information with an inability to enact the change on its own.  The weekly steering committee, or guiding coalition of the transformation effort, needs leaders who are actively engaged in assembling resources against the effort.  In addition, this guiding coalition should identify and engage critical mid-level voices, which can be as influential as senior leadership for change in the organization.

Engage the Organization with a PMO Leader Who Can Influence and Inform the Meat of Ongoing Buy-in : A strong, consistent, transparent PMO leader is well-versed in the blocking and tackling of program management, troubleshooting, and milestone evaluation.  S/he must have the organizational savvy to be a day-to-day influencer of organizational buy-in, and help inform the overall change communications program. The PMO leader is a consistent face for the change effort, and should be able to speak to the key influencers as well as the political landscape, with strong messaging.  S/he can leverage the economies of repetition through the introduction of standards to be the consistent change program voice. Ultimately, with transparent reporting and active problem solving, the PMO can even be a driver of stakeholder satisfaction. Nesbitt elaborates on this in 5 Ways to Get More Value out of Your PMO.

Reinforce the Focused Change Outcomes with Appropriate Incentives: Compensation systems are often too-powerful and static complications vs. the intended change. Consider adjustments that will reinforce key outcomes. These must be carefully thought through to avoid the wrong kind of behavior, and in larger entities, require supplemental board review. Incentives play a key role in reinforcing the agreed organizational buy-in and actioning.

Ensure Organizational Buy-in to Major Change:

Is your business seeking change that sticks? HighPoint’s top-tier consulting team will assist organizational alignment, and set up and support a highly transparent, visible, and results-centric PMO, allowing your business to execute rapid, meaningful outcomes against strategic imperatives with effective change communications, resourcing, and pace. Contact HighPoint to start the conversation.