Help Staff Buy Into Organizational Change

Today’s leaders are responsible for making a broad base of decisions, from the mundane to strategic decisions that may affect the survival of the entire organization. Achieving organizational alignment is one of the greatest challenges they face.

Leaders managing large-scale change can lose sight of the fact that human beings naturally resist change and have a finite capacity to absorb it.

The amount of information thrown at us today is mind-boggling. We are literally overloaded. Important information can easily be lost in the flood. How many of us have been asked, “Didn’t you see that e-mail?” Um, maybe you missed it along with the other 150 e-mails in your inbox!

Many organizations today are paralyzed by the amount of change management asks them to address, ranging from new policies, products and services to the latest software programs that touch almost everyone in the workplace.

We have all been exposed to management introducing the “program of the month.” Often the end results are predictable — nothing much changes.

If we’re on the front line or an end user of the changed program and we’re not involved in its creation, we naturally resist it — and grumble beneath our breath that management just doesn’t get it. In these cases, workers typically just wait it out, hoping the current program dies.

The lesson for leaders (or those tasked with creating change) is to spend your change chits wisely and involve others in your process.

When evaluating that new initiative or program, no matter how good it looks on paper, do some organizational testing and involve the participants the program will affect. This will greatly increase the probability of buy-in and commitment.

Consulting with the front-line implementers or end users is critical; after all, they will be the ones most affected.

There are techniques to help facilitate effective decision-making, particularly in a team environment. Skilled facilitators have tools, techniques and processes for helping groups make critical decisions.

How decisions are being made directly affects the quality of the decision itself and the probability of success. When facing decisions that have major organizational consequence, here are a few questions to consider:

  • Have I gathered sufficient information to identify the problem accurately?
  • Who else might I consult with (that I haven’t considered yet) who will be affected by this decision? Whom could my decision harm or help?
  • Develop objectives: What short- and long-term results am I trying to achieve?
  • Identify evaluation criteria (i.e., resource requirements, risks) and alternatives.
  • What is the best approach to ensure buy-in and commitment by those who will carry out the decision?

Now that a decision to change has been made, how do you manage it to ensure ongoing buy-in and commitment?

Here are a few tips:

  • Communicate expectations, recognition and rewards.
  • Solicit and support ongoing input and feedback for improvements on the program and process.
  • Call attention to benchmark achievements and program success.
  • Set the expectation that the success of the program will be measured and communicated.
  • Identify accountability — who will be responsible for what by when?
  • Make it your priority.

Quality and timely decisions are critical to organizational success (and, in the end, what most leaders are judged by). Creating organizational alignment is an undeniable competitive advantage. But it is easier said than done. How decisions are made, communicated and managed have significant impact on the people and the organization.

As an executive coach, I regularly help clients with change.  Call me at 360 682 5807 or email: for my help.  I Skype with clients all over the world!