The Myth Surrounding Executive Buy-In

I recently came across an article in IndustryWeek titled The Politics of Improvement: The Challenge of Getting Company Leaders’ Buy-In.

While there are obviously certain degrees of politics in every facet of everyday living – I have never been a fan of the term “buy-in”. In fact I have a strong distaste for its implications, as it suggests that to get what you want, you somehow have to resort to a slight of hand con game, in which you manipulate someone into doing something they would not otherwise be inclined to do.

I am talking about buy-in in the context of complex program and contract management where, more often than not, significant time and money is spent massaging business cases and business arrangement constructs so as to secure acceptance.

This is the antithesis of true communication and collaboration. In other words, and contradictory to a battle of strategic wills in which one convinces another that theirs is the right way to go, in a relational approach to forwarding an initiative idea, transparency between all stakeholders is the key.

Now some of you might shake your head at this point and acknowledge that while honorable, my thinking is more reflective of a non-existent Utopian world. You might even go so far as to suggest a degree a naivety in relation to how the real world operates.

Fair enough, but here is one reality that no one can afford to ignore; approximately 90% of all complex contracting arrangements fail to deliver the expected outcome. So while adept strategic positioning and negotiation might get you to the starting line, it rarely if ever results in the combined teams winning the race.

Unfortunately, when initiatives go off the tracks, the focus is often on purported breakdowns at the execution stage, and the subsequent assignment of blame.

Like Building A House On Quicksand

Think of it in these terms; if tradesmen build a house on a foundation that is set on quicksand, and the house sinks, is it the fault of the tradesmen who did the work? Did they somehow use improper building techniques or substandard materials? If you bring in a new set of tradesmen and switch to different materials, will the ultimate result change?

The fact is that the failure of the house (or initiative) had been determined long before the building or execution phase began. It started on the architect’s drafting table.

This is the point that brings us back to the buy-in deception as I will call it.

In a true relational approach, in which there is a mutual benefit that is both recognized and agreed upon by all stakeholders, you begin to lay the solid foundation for future success. The ultimate success to which I am referring is not based upon a onetime political mastery or slick negotiation technique. It is about structuring the relationship based on a continuous process of convergence created by an open and logical structure progressing through 4 critical stages. These stages are as follows:

  1. Harness or Capture True Knowledge and Insight of all stakeholders positions, needs, interests and priorities
  2. Filtering the Captured Knowledge to create a baseline of joint objectives
  3. Structuring the Relationship Framework through a collaborative convergence process
  4. Executing the Program

In both my book and upcoming seminars I talk about each phase of the above relational approach. With this model, buy-in is a natural as opposed to artificial progression of a collaborative process, leading to a mutually beneficial outcome.

This being said, over the next few posts I will provide a high level overview of each of the four stages referenced above.

In the meantime, to learn more about my seminar click the Telfer image below:


Also, check out my book . . .

Relationships First (Mar 2015)


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