During last year’s HR Technology Conference, one of the speakers said something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. They said that we have to not only get buy in for our ideas and projects but keep it. Totally makes sense. But in reality, how often do we actually do it?
I know many times someone has said to me (or I’ve said to someone), “If you want that project to succeed, you must get buy in from senior management.” The question becomes, during those conversations where we ask someone in senior management to buy into our idea and support us, how often are we outlining what we really mean by “support” including asking what it takes to keep their support? It seems to me that when we’re looking for organizational support, we need to add that step.
The process of garnering organizational buy in might look something like this:
- Identify who is the best champion for the project or initiative. Let’s face it some managers are better at this than others. Part of a project’s success is choosing the right champion or sponsor.
- Ask if they are open to hearing about the project. I believe this is their prerogative. It’s their political capital being put on the line.
- Pitch the idea using business research and value to the organization. I’d add include the potential obstacles and challenges. Your champion will want to know this anyway.
- Tell them their role as the champion of the project and get their commitment. This ties into #3. As you’re explaining the project, let them know where you believe they will provide the most value.
- Ask what needs to be done to keep their commitment. It could be as small as just sending regular reports or meeting with them over coffee occasionally. Or it could be more – like not changing an aspect of the project.
Senior managers get asked to champion projects all the time. In fact, I’ve seen senior managers forget projects they’ve bought-into. I don’t know that it’s really completely their fault. Sometimes project leaders forget to keep them in the loop. Senior managers also have changing priorities. Sometimes the projects they support today aren’t the projects they would support tomorrow (if you know what I mean). This is where having a plan in place to keep senior management support is critical.
The last thing a project leader wants is to start working on a project only to discover that their senior management champion isn’t on board anymore. And this could happen for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the project itself. Business goals might shift, budgets and resources could be reallocated, or key staff members needed to focus in a different direction.
By keeping senior management aligned with the project, it’s possible the staff and resources allocated to the project will stay intact. And if a redistribution of resources needs to happen, maybe the senior management champion can keep the project from totally being abandoned. So, keeping buy in might not help in the short-term but it would definitely help in the long-run.
P.S. Speaking of the HR Technology Conference, it’s going to be here before we know it. This year’s conference is October 1 – 4, 2019 in Las Vegas. The event includes their annual “Women in Technology” pre-conference session. A must-attend in my book. Registration details can be found on the HR Technology website.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby during the Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit in Salt Lake City, UT19