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4 Tactics to Acquire Buy-In

4 Tactics to Acquire Buy-In

Cultural Impact   /   Jan 15th, 2019   /  A+ | a-
I have spent my career in manufacturing, with that comes my share of corporate classes. Though many of these classes have been beneficial, I recently got back from a trip where my customer schooled me in acquiring buy-in. If you have ever been a part of a project you know how vital operator buy-in is to make change a reality. They broke it down into 4 elements that literally dropped my jaw without obvious and simple they are.

Do not allow Heroes to Exist

Heroes intend to be good guys, but if you need one your problem is already spiraling out of control. In Manufacturing a Hero is the person that is so good at what they do that they can make any project work. The problem with this is that it is unsustainable. If that person no longer works for your company that project comes to an abrupt stop. To avoid having a Hero, Management has to be involved. Everyone knows that change happens from the top-down, and that must be the case. If you discover that your factory has Heroes, you must act quickly and remove the need of a Hero.

Remove the Excuses

It is too common that Operators will fight change, this can be done by a series of excuses. Using examples from our experience (digital work instructions), below show some excuses followed by an effective response:
  • “I don’t know how to use it” — then provide a class
  • “The touch screen doesn’t work well” — then provide a mouse
  • “It is hard to type on screen” — then provide a keyboard
  • “The screen is too small” — then provide a larger screen
If you continue to listen to your Operators and address their excuses you will eventually be left with a platform that fits your environment the way your Operators are most comfortable. Many places will respond too quickly with, “This is your job, now do it”. This can negatively impact your morale and you might also miss out on opportunities to further improve your process. Though some of the excuses might be a way to avoid change, some might be very valuable. One of our jobs as Managers is to listen. If you continue to listen and resolve every excuse, eventually the Operator will be forced to state they object to change, and if your company is pushing from top-down they will know they have no other choice.

Defend against a Bully

The best way to defend yourself against a bully is to accept their insult. If they say you smell bad, respond with: “You’re right, I’ll shower twice tomorrow”. Diffuse the situation and you deplete their power. If you show hurt feelings or fight back you are playing into what they want. Use this same tactic with your Operators when it comes to change.

If they say, “This process is dumb, it is slowing me down.” Agree and work together: “I know it is more for you to do, it has me running around and my boss is all over me.” Then turn it back on them: “How about this, use it as-is today and tomorrow let’s chat again. I want your feedback so I can see if I can help make things work better for us both.”

Let them vent their objections, if they are forced to bottle up their reservations, your problem will only become hidden. To have a successful project you need to get everyone excited and interested in the benefits of change.

Art of War

The fact of the matter is you will have some staff that are bad employees. If you are listening to their concerns and addressing them appropriately, as well as giving them a chance to verbalize their concerns/objections, you are doing your part. Operators that continue to fight the direction of the company will become a liability. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu is loaded with great quotes. Though your Operators are not an “enemy”, many of the quotes can be seen relate-able in regards to those that push back against change in every way.
  • “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Having to fire an Operator is a last resort, you must be able to outsmart them in your efforts.
  • “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” Your goal should not be to suppress them into submission, but instead break down their resistance to change.
  • “He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish.” You must find balance with your methods of enforcement. Always being kind will lead to you being walked over, and being too aggressive will turn into a more aggressive environment.
As an engineer, I love to process decisions based on logic. Establishing buy-in is not about logic, it is about emotions. As change-agents our involvement on a project is temporary, but to our Operators it is their full-time job, what they engage with every single working day. My clients understood this exceptionally well, and put all of their energy into engaging their operators to establish buy-in. There are many classes that will teach methodology to earn buy-in, but the reality of it all is that it comes down to how well you engage with your staff and respect their needs and concerns.
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