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New Use of Engagement Tools- Drive Buy In

Success Predictor: Knowing You Have Buy-in Before Launching New Initiatives

There is no shortage of tools being introduced to help drive better engagement in your organization – surveys, collaboration tools, enterprise social network tools, crowd-sourcing tools, etc.  These tools can help associates weigh in on documents, share ideas for innovations or solving problems, and generally connect teams to get answers quickly.

70% of Initiatives Fail

But there is untapped potential with these various engagement tools; we aren’t leveraging them to improve the overall success rate of initiatives.  We’ve all heard the stat “70% of initiatives fail” and that a primary driver of that failure is lack of buy-in and adoption. What if you could leverage engagement tools to assess buy-in before you’ve even spent a dime on rolling out the initiative? 

To date, understanding and driving buy-in is done in different ways. Innovation teams often do it best, at least when they’re in the pilot phase. They drive buy-in by leaning in to the personal discussions and feedback loops.  As innovation teams in healthcare are piloting new programs, whether in a clinical unit, a specific care site, etc., they’re utilizing relationships with the core pilot audience to have deep conversations about the plan, what will work, what the challenges are, and how to make the plan most successful as it is being piloted.  They’re optimizing the solution as they go to ensure it meets the audience’s needs and they have buy-in.

However, this approach for understanding buy-in and optimizing the solution is not scalable for large audiences or system-wide initiatives.  It is impossible to have deep conversations with such a large group of people and, if you could, making sense of that much information would be extremely difficult.

Gaining ‘Buy-in’

Currently, initiative leaders, project and program managers, and change managers alike are tackling the challenge of widespread buy-in through communications.  To simplify it, part of the theory is that sharing details about the initiative – what is it, why are we doing it, what’s in it for me – creates buy-in.  Therefore, the project in which you’ve already invested hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars will succeed. 

It’s also important to note that these leaders that are pushing communications are doing so after money has been committed, teams have been formed, consultants have been hired, and the plan is being executed.  The ship is sailing and changing course can be difficult, if not impossible.

Get Buy-in While the Ship Is Still at Port

The opportunity to flip the narrative lies in this – measuring buy-in while the ship is still at port. Operationally, this means communicating the initiative to the impacted audience, and then asking them how confident they are that it will be successful. If confidence is low, it requires taking it a step further and digging into why their confidence is low and what can be done to shore up the plan, then adjusting the plan accordingly.

This more iterative or agile knowledge sourcing approach gives you an opportunity to optimize the plan before you’ve invested heavily into it.  It also gives you an opportunity to pull the plug completely if necessary, saving you the money you would have invested in a failed initiative. 

Key to Ensuring Success – Change in Mindset

Effectively executing this approach demands both a shift in mindset and a change in how you leverage the engagement tools you have at your disposal.

The change in mindset needs to happen at the leadership level.  Today, when an initiative is announced to the organization, it is announced with a plan that is 100% baked and in which everyone has full confidence in its success. 

In this new paradigm, leaders need to confidently communicate the initiative, but must be willing to accept that there may be flaws in the plan – perceived or real.  Leaders need to not only know if the initiative has buy-in, they must be willing to hear the reasons why it does not.  They need to accept that audience perception is reality and embrace the power in knowing what that perception is.  And they must be willing to adjust the plan to optimize its success or be willing to be held accountable for the inevitable result.

New Use of Engagement Tools – Drive Buy-in

If leaders accept this new mindset, the next step is to determine which engagement tool(s) will be most effective for this approach.  A simple survey can help you predict success – giving you that score that tells you what level of buy-in you have.  But surveys don’t make it easy for you to sift through the answers to identify what the broad audience or majority think the roadblocks are if confidence is low. 

You may consider pairing the survey tools with your collaboration tools as these give the team the ability to weigh-in on each other’s answers, so you have a stronger sense for the predominant reasons why there is a lack of buy-in. Just note the lack of anonymity in some of these tools may influence the honesty of the answers provided.

Another alternative may be the new generation of business-oriented crowd-sourcing or “knowledge-sourcing” tools.  Many of these enable you to capture both the quantifiable data point (level of buy-in) and the roadblocks/improvement ideas quickly and concisely. 

Outcome:  Greater Initiative Success Rates

Regardless of the engagement tools you use, the goal is the same – know whether or not you have buy-in before you’ve invested a significant amount of money or effort into your initiative.  Then use it as an opportunity to optimize your initiative to make it more successful.  Or make the hard decision to delay or even stop the initiative completely until such time you can determine the investment is justified.  Increasing your 30% success rate is worth it.