Authored by: Christon Valdivieso
Edited by: Afton Knight
In my last article, I wrote about ASAP management and SOPs. I identified four steps to creating lasting SOPs, and wanted to add some clarity concerning Step 1. The first step to implementing lasting SOPs is to ensure the SOP is clearly understood by leadership and personnel. However, this principle is easier said than done. To elaborate, there are two important elements that should be discussed. The first is to obtain buy-in. The second element is to clearly communicate that vision. Obtaining buy-in, the first element, is the more difficult and most critical one. In fact the major reason “70% of all organizational change efforts fail” is due to leadership not getting enough buy-in.
What makes the buy-in process difficult is the changing business landscape. Businesses are increasingly headed toward more collaborative cultures. Companies are realizing the true cost of operating within silos and are seeking to break down functional barriers and develop cross-functional practices. This new landscape requires a collaborative intelligence focused on inclusion and respect.
In a silo or independent operation, collaboration often means asking associates for input before making a final decision. In a cross-functional role, collaboration entails a team-based development process. In both cases, collaboration is instrumental in obtaining buy-in. Professionals need to develop their collaborative intelligence to understand which environment they are in and how to successfully include the appropriate stakeholders. Professor John Kotter of the Harvard Business School explains:
“Buy-in is critical to making any large organizational change happen. Unless you win support for your ideas, from people at all levels of your organization, big ideas never seem to take hold or have the impact you want.”
How you approach getting buy-in is, then, also critical. True buy-in is more than support. Lasting buy-in is a result of co-creation. Thus, getting key stakeholders involved earlier will help ensure you have support later.
Once buy-in is achieved, the second element—ensuring everyone understands the vision—is simplified as there is an established coalition of support for the new standard or process. The second part requires clear communication of the vision and the ‘why’; which, if you haven’t clearly developed the ‘why’, you probably do not have much buy-in. How you communicate is also important. Printing and posting a new policy for rank and file associates without an announcement or explanation would be as ineffective as a reference slide in a slide deck to senior leadership. When communicating a vision, how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate.
Before going down the SOP implementation steps take a second look at step 1 and consider this thought: Do you have a clearly defined vision and a coalition of support?