One of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to instigate change in an organization is to attempt to change other people.
We identify the problems, create the strategies and plans to implement a so-called solution and then try to “sell it” to people.
We seek “buy-in”. By and large, though, all we get is cynicism and resistance.
It is not necessarily that we are tackling the wrong problems or are taking the wrong approach. It is that we are trying to “do things to people”.
We should not be looking for “buy-in” but for “ownership” and that means involving people right from the very start of any change initiative.
Everyone should be involved in identifying the problems and developing the response to them.
This way everyone feels ownership. They naturally take responsibility and are thus more engaged and more committed to the agreed course of action.
Ownership is when you own or share the ownership of an idea, a decision, an action plan, a choice. It means that you have participated in its development; that it is your choice freely made.
Buy-in is the exact opposite. Someone else, or some group of people, has done the development, the thinking and the deciding, and now they have to convince you to come along and buy-in to their idea — so that you can implement their idea without your involvement in the initial conversations or resulting decisions. Aiming for buy-in creates lukewarm, pallid implementation and mediocre results.
When it comes to solving intractable socio-technical behavioral problems in systems the notion of buy-in is just not useful – people in the system need to own the new behaviors.
Anytime you or someone around you thinks or talks about buy-in, beware! It is a danger signal telling you that your development and implementation process is missing the essential ingredient of involving all who should be involved.
Compliance is quite different from contribution.
Organized bureaucracies thrive on compliance. It makes it easier to tell people what to do.
But contribution is the only way that tribes thrive, the best way to make change happen and the essence of being part of a community.
It’s a shame that we spend so much time teaching our children (and our employees) to comply. Far better to seek out contribution instead.
Credit: Seth Godin
To build community, we need to move from buy-in to ownership.
This page is part of an online book on Conversational Leadership that I am in the process of writing.
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