Ways to approach lack of buy in to project delivery

Following on from our post on 5 common reasons behind poor communication I read with interest a post on Seth Godin’s blog recently that talked about When well-meaning people don’t see things the same way. Go and have a read and then come back (please!).

In the world of project management stakeholder engagement and buy-in is key. Over at the Dashe blog, they sum the problem up really well by looking at stakeholder buy in. They sum it up as “Many executives don’t make the effort to help gain buy-in from everyone, from those just below them”. The significance of this is that it’s dictatorial and often fails to include key influencers i.e. those in middle management or those who may be in more senior positions than the project team. Those individuals could be influencers who may impact the thoughts and desires of the wider stakeholder group.

Let’s go back to Seth’s blog again and two of the opposing positions he cites:

Change–because things can get better if we let them
The status quo–because change is risky

Most projects (if not all) are all about change and a failure to get buy-in because of fear of change is more common than you think. And there is some credence behind that. An annual survey cited by CIO.com stated that more than half of IT projects still failing. So have stakeholders got a right to be nervous and not believe the path to glory that the project team is stating they’ll deliver?

So how do you approach solving this problem?

Of course, there is the blunt instrument approach where top bosses simply say “do it!!” but that often causes resentment and actually encourages people to undermine the effectiveness of the project (no-one really likes being ordered to do something right?).

The other approach is a more strategic mindset towards stakeholder management and communications. There are usually key individuals within organizations that are key influencers to smaller tribes. Recognising these from the outset of the project is crucial to capture their hearts and minds early on. Consider how to engage them and get them to contribute (ideally bring those with the biggest tribes into the project team). Baselining the current pre-delivery environment may help in identifying those key issues that impact their daily lives that the project is endeavoring to resolve.

Also, you have to be brilliant at your communications and be regular at it. repeat the reasons why the change is necessary and which business problems your project is fixing.

Have a specific comms plan for senior execs, failing to get this nailed can kill your project early on. Remember your communication is not simply preaching about project status but it’s about engagement and collaboration.

If possible consider how you can conduct stakeholder reviews/questionnaires during the project to ascertain the swing of stakeholder buy-in (this also helps underpin if you’re comms plan is working efficiently).

Fundamentally having an opposing view does not doom your project, you need to work at it to identify a route forward. Perhaps you’ll never convince everyone but if you can convince enough of the right people then you’ve made a good start.