"Buy-in" - What Are You Selling?

A reader emailed and asked how to avoid the "crickets" when pitching an idea to others. You know the feeling....you have the best idea and run it past your people. You know this idea is going to change the way things work, people are going to wonder why we haven't done it before!

Their response: silence, except for the crickets chirping away.

Especially frustrating for managers who need to get things done, getting buy-in from the people that work for you is extremely difficult, if not rare. We have to ask ourselves though, what are we doing when we try to get buy-in? What do we really want from people?

As a supervisor or manager, we usually want someone to think through the great idea you gave them and then go do it. Very rarely does this actually happen. If it does, invariably the idea isn't done the way you had envisioned it. It seemed like such a great idea yesterday morning, while you were in the shower, when you do your best thinking of how it would work just right!

So if we are looking for our people to buy-in to something, what are we selling? An idea. What are you seeking for payment? Usually commitment and action. What do our people get in return? Our idea, that we wanted them to do in the first place. Most people would rather have you just tell them to do it rather than go through the meetings to pitch the idea in the first place. That is so much more efficient!

But do we ever really get buy-in? Do subordinates or peers truly own our ideas once they have "bought-in"? The most likely answer is no.

What we really want is people to own ideas and put them into action. Supervisors that spend their time influencing and encouraging their employees to try out their own ideas as problems arise are far more successful than supervisors that try to sell their own ideas to their employees. This is a key component to successful kaizen teian or suggestion systems found in lean companies like Toyota, Subaru, Canon, Matsushita, Technicolor, Autoliv and many others.

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