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change ownership

How to Get Change Buy-in with an 80 Percent Solution

For many years, I believed creating the best plan would lead to successful adoption of change–the better the plan the better the outcomes. 

What I now know is that the goal isn’t to create the best plan; the goal is to create a good plan that people will own and implement. The problem with the 100 percent “perfect plan” is that there is no room for people to contribute. Without providing inputs, people often feel that change is being done to them. This can lead to resistance, or worse, indifference.
I remember defending one of my perfect plans to the detriment of its execution. Being technically right increased my ownership and decreased it in those who were being tasked with implementation. My inflexibility contributed to lukewarm execution. I had sabotaged the plan without knowing it.

It is essential that people are given opportunities to provide input into change programs and implementation. People must see their fingerprints on the change before they devote themselves to following it. The 80 percent plan creates room for participation and co-creation, which leads to a pride, confidence, capability and ownership.
Here are some tips on how to gain buy-in for change through contribution:
  • Refer to your plan as a “draft”
  • Set up a team to review the plan
  • Include a member of each group that is adopting the change
  • Demonstrate you are actively listening to feedback by asking open-ended, clarifying questions
  • Explain why some points of feedback will not improve the plan—don’t make a change that will not improve the outcome
  • Acknowledge when an approach is better than yours—it’s a win for the person who came up with it
  • Identify contributors by name: “Alka suggested that teams that work together should attend training together.”
  • Attribute success to the team—this encourages future contributions and successful changes
Buy-in and ownership are essential for successful change. Providing room for reflection, creation and contribution build a sense of purpose, commitment and resolve to do things differently. People must want to change themselves.

8 Tips on How to Roll Out a New Process

Lately, I have been helping organizations roll out new global processes. They require people in different geographies and functions to work differently than they do now so that they can work similarly in the future.

This requires people to take on new ways of thinking, tasks, skills, behaviours, relationships, and sometimes systems.

Many years ago when I led my first global process project, I assumed that people would be as excited to operate consistently across the globe. After all, they would speak the same business language, do the same things, easily share best practices and become more efficient. What’s not to like?

What I quickly realized is that there are many reasons why a business area would not want to adopt a global process. The more common ones are:

  • Not customized to the needs of the business area
  • Unproven locally
  • Unknown
  • Confusing
  • Being forced upon them
  • More costly
  • Longer to execute
  • Someone else’s success
  • Created by unknowns
  • A disruptor of the current success formula
  • Hard and looks like work 
  • Similar to something that was mandated in the past that failed 

I realized that rolling out global processes happens incrementally over time. People must understand how it can help them before they become interested in learning what it is and how to do it well. 

Teams also need to discuss how it can work for them and be able to make modifications that make it more effective without compromising important areas of commonality. This is when they fully support the new approach and call it their own.

Not providing time and space to reflect on the process and how it can fit with other practices leads to avoidance, bare minimum adoption, outright abandonment and, at worse, sabotage. 

Here are some tips to enable people to take on new processes:

  • Explain the ‘why’ before speaking about the ‘how’
  • Back up the benefits with hard facts. If you don’t have any then realize that the process will be viewed as an untested hypothesis
  • Define the principles and components that need to be the same across the business; everything else is negotiable
  • Realize that people are emotionally attached to the current ways they do things, which can be sources of pride, expertise and accomplishment 
  • Invite teams to make the change better. Assuming that you have a perfect solution is naive, creates a source of resistance and negates opportunities for co-creation
  • Focus your efforts on making a pilot business area successful. Peer testimonials hold the most credibility and value
  • Build in time for absorption of new ways of operating—thinking, actions and behaviours 
  • Recognize and reward the business areas that adopt the process first. This is the best way to create demand for new things and replicate successful transition paths
Rolling out new processes takes awareness building, interest, knowledge, skill and practice. Most of all, it takes people who take on new ways of working that they have co-created, ones who say, “We did this.”

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