buy in, change management, Toby Elwin, blog

Buy-in is broke

Change management, buy-in, buy in, organization development, broke, appreciative inquiry

CEO announces new strategic plan – attractive financing available.

In organization change I always avoid any effort that includes the term:  buy-in. You may hear the term in some variation of the following: “now we need to get (insert stakeholder here) to buy-in“.

I have never been comfortable asking anyone to buy-in to a strategic plan, a new product launch, or an organization change.

Buy-in sounds too much like slippery salesman’s jargon. I don’t need the person or the team or the organization to buy-in and because then there is a risk they may feel something bogus was sold to them. I don’t need surprises or revised sales job to get move my message.

Don’t ask people to buy-in to something.

Instead invite them in to what is happening.

Communicate with them.

Draw them in.

Share with all those impacted difficulty ahead you see ahead. Ask them for their view. Ask them how they see their role.

Buy-in Market

I prefer a stakeholder who understands their role in the change, they are the ones who provide commitment and motivation. Seek dedication, not buy-in.

It is far easier to invite someone in, then to sell them something they may have no desire to buy. It takes far less effort to communicate from the start than to keep information and risk the entire change from a passive or active revolt.

Some people may never buy-in, that’s OK. Change is not a linear progression, it has fits and starts.

Stop trying to sell something and you no longer have to worry about how much of your “product” is being bought.

Help people understand and commit that you are responsible to keep them motivated with timely, transparent communication. You need your stakeholders to succeed. These are the people who rally others, who positively infect hope in people who are on the fence or that are unsure.

These motivated, committed stakeholders energize the rest and in a scale of effort no corporate, executive-driven, buy-in program could ever accomplish without.

In today’s world change is constant, try to treat your stakeholders as motivated, interested colleagues, not some high-interest, finance customer.

Caveat emptor.
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Comments 3

  1. Great points, Toby. I find that asking them for meaningful input that can really be used is the most powerful way to effectively engage employees. It takes more thought up front, but the effects on morale and commitment are far higher than the typical superficial “buy-in”.

    I help leaders craft questions that will garner real value from their employees, who after all do see the business daily from a different perspective. When a leader truly acknowledges the value their employees provide she can begin to ask for meaningful input and engagement through which everyone wins.

    1. Post

      It seems opportunity too often lost on managers and leaders is that throughout life we retain an ability to know when we are not valued, not taken seriously, and not presented with reality.I am not sure, if a child at age 5, realizes an adults who does not follow through when we grow older we believe we pull the wool over other’s eyes. We do not.

      More often people tire of challenging someone who is not telling us the truth or we fear retribution if we convey to managers and leaders, “I am not buying it”.The great opportunity is to remind leaders to value people and people will value them. Just like in kindergarten.

      Bob – I am really excited about your new book Energize.

      I have no idea why I overlooked this reply for 3 years, but glad I found it again and continue to appreciate the comments you’ve left.

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