I had the privilege of presenting at the recent ARK Group Australia Library 2.0 event where I was asked to share my experiences from CPA Australia for obtaining buy in to do 2.0 and social media type initiatives. In my role there, in the Knowledge Exchange team, this meant buy in internally from staff and also externally from our members. Whilst preparing the session I realised that the principles for getting buy in for these kinds of initiatives were not so far removed from getting buy in for any other kind of project – apart from the additional (and often significant) component of education.
Here is the summation of my 5 buy in principles (minus my stories – sorry had to be there!)
#1 know what you are doing and why
Sounds simple and it is. Buy in is really difficult when you can’t articulate what you are doing and why. Be really clear about what your initiatives are, why you want to do them and the benefits and value they offer. If you are clear, succinct and articulate you will be more confident and convincing in your proposal and achieve a greater result. Bottom line is if you cannot articulate what it is you are trying to achieve, how can you expect others to share in that vision and be excited and confident in what you are pursuing?
#2 where does your evidence LIE? (literature | industry | experience)
At some point you will no doubt need to form a case to get your project across the line. You know what you want to do and why – now you just need the justification for it. Depending on your organisation (in particular it’s commercial tendencies, risk profile and culture) you will need evidence in literature, industry examples (especially from your competitors) or experience (either your own or the organisation’s through other initiatives, pilots or stealth projects). Gathering the right evidence is of course crucial here – there is no point finding 10 journal articles on why you need a blog if the only thing your CEO cares about is that all your competitors have blogs and you don’t. It’s also important to realise that different people (particularly at different levels) may require different evidence. This is about understanding your audience and their needs as much as the actual evidence.
#3 pitch to each audience
We often think we only need one elevator pitch and that if we repeat it enough people will eventually get on board. What we forget is that people care about different things – this is especially true in organisations where people are working in disparate areas and a variety of hierarchical levels. So it’s really important to have messages for audiences – to know your audiences and what will be meaningful to each of them and then to craft messages for each of them. This means we need more than one pitch!
In the slide pack you will see reference to Elliot Jaques Stratified Systems Theory, often called levels of work. Jaques discovered that the level of responsibility in any organizational role can be measured in terms of the target completion time of the longest task assigned to that role. Jaques found that tasks fall into categories characterized by the maximum amount of time the person is expected to carry on without direct supervision (the task’s time span) and the degree to which the task requires the person to process a variety of information and come to conclusions about it (the task’s complexity). I’ve found this quite helpful in understanding what is meaningful to various levels in order to be able to pitch appropriately to each (which means check it out!)
#4 respect the channels of your organisation
We all know how frustrating, political, bureaucratic organisational processes can be – particularly when you are trying to work in this space of being flexible, agile and adaptable. All the processes just seem to drag and slow you down. But if going through the appropriate communication, heirarchical, project channels and processes can help you get buy in and understanding you need to do it. If your organisation (as CPA Australia does) use PRINCE2 project management methodology then use this to your advantage. If this is something the organisation understands and is comfortable with for its rigour and structure then use this for your education as well as to get buy in. Through using the official channels of the organisation you are often able to get more buy in more quickly and a higher level of understanding for what you are doing (particularly if the environment is conservative, risk averse or very new to the social online space). This may also result in your being given the budget to do it.
#5 buy in is not a one off event
Buy in is an ongoing relationship that should be mutually beneficial – it is not a one off transaction. With 2.0 or social media initiatives it is particularly important to continue to be available and responsive to give ongoing support, training, and education. It is not a one off handover of ‘there’s your online community – good luck!’ This assists in minimising risk also – you continue to be able to monitor the outcome, commitment and participation to ensure it is not just a one month fad and then the initiative is left by the wayside for the next project.
I further refine this down to clarity + conversation + care. What are your stories and principles of buy in?