Change is often considered to be a positive thing, but getting people to want to change can be challenging. New and fresh ideas bring about unique ways to approach existing challenges and normally they require buy-in from multiple people and teams. Hospitals are constantly working to transform patient experience and the quality of care they provide to their patients. A task this big requires fresh & innovative ideas and initiatives which typically get implemented through influence from your peers. So, you have a great new initiative you’d like to start at your organization – and it’s a fantastic one, one you think could benefit many. Now what? Well, you have to convince other people just how great your idea is—or rather you have to get buy-in. But how?
Step 1: Assessing your own buy-in
An often overlooked first step is: getting buy-in from yourself. Part of working in an ever-changing environment means that priorities often get shifted. So, start by asking yourself what kind of commitment can you give to the initiative you are proposing. Whether it’s your passion or an initiative that has to take place to meet regulations, to get proper buy-in you need to be ready to present the business case for the initiative.
Now that you have assessed your commitment to the initiative, you need to decide what role you want to play. Will it be the champion who leads the initiative and makes the effort to get it approved? The cheerleader, who encourages others to lead and adopt the initiative? Or the initiator, who plants the seed of the idea with lots of people in order to build a groundswell of support until a champion can emerge.
No matter which role you choose, you need to do your homework. Research and talk to others who have done something similar—become an expert on the subject. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be. The more you read, the more credible your arguments will be.
Step 2: Getting buy-in from your peers
The key to getting the buy-in from your peers is trust, and one of the best ways to build it is to include them in your initiative. Make sure to share your idea and include them in the research you’ve done that supports your arguments, and discuss what the next steps should be. Your research can help lead the discussion, provide context and encourage others to get involved.
It’s expected that not everyone will agree with you—some may even create roadblocks for you to overcome. Don’t let that bother you—It takes time for people to adjust to new ideas. Take a step back and truly listen to the feedback they have to offer and use it to refine your initiative. Persevere—keep talking about your initiative—, speak with conviction and allow your peers the time to digest the information to evaluate it on their own terms. Most importantly, don’t forget to ask for help and involvement from your supporters, especially if your intended role is the initiator or cheerleader.
To gain buy-in from your peers:
- Find colleagues who have previous experience with your initiative
- Approach managers and executives to ask for advice and about funding
- Talk to your peers about the initiative and identify the ones who understand & support you and get them involved
- Have breakfast or lunch with peers who have influence to uncover ways that your initiative can help them
- Be open. Stay positive. Keep talking.
Step 3: Getting buy-in from your manager
Find out what engages your manager and then tailor your message to match their points of interest. So, for example, if your manager’s priority is efficiency, then you’ll want to highlight how your initiative will help with saving resources. Or, if your manager puts people first, then be sure to talk about how your initiative will have a positive impact on team morale. If you don’t know what your manager is concerned with, do some digging and find out before you approach them.
Remember that managers are rewarded when things are running well, and as such may be adverse the change you present them. You have to address this resistance in order to receive your manager’s endorsement.
The key is to position your idea as a ‘safe’ one. Discuss how your organization can roll out the initiative slowly to give everyone time to adapt—which will allow the opportunity for adjustments at each step if required. Keep your discussion in a positive light by avoiding words and phrases like “if,” “might” and “could be” because these words portray uncertainty and will cause co-workers to question your confidence. Instead, use language that leaves no room to doubt like “with this change,” “we will be able to” and “when this is fully rolled out” to help your manager see your vision through concrete examples.
Above all, listen to your manager’s feedback and incorporate it into the initiative. This will refine your initiative and help you gain the trust you need from your manager to push it forward.
Step 4: Getting buy-in from executives
Now that you have the support of both your peers and manager, it’s time to get the buy-in from executives. This doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require some prep-work.
Remember, executives are busy—so use your meeting time with them as an endpoint of your buy-in, not the start. This means you’ll have to have already convinced the executive team of the merits of your initiative before the meeting.
First, look at the members of the executive team and identify the key influencers. This could be anyone, from the CFO to the CIO, but once you have identified who that person is, try to get some one-on-one time with him or her. The best way to get this arranged is through your manager—simply ask them to schedule a meeting for you directly or through their administrative assistant. Have your manager be an advocate for your initiative and get them involved in the conversation as well.
Use your one-on-one meeting as an opportunity to learn what is bothering or concerning the executives, and then use your knowledge to improve your position—adjusting where you must to get the buy-in you need. Whatever you do though, don’t get discouraged by what may seem like a lack of progress—hang in there. Because once you’ve aligned your initiative with a goal that he or she is determined to achieve, you’ll be closer than ever to getting the buy-in you’ve been fighting for.
If you’ve reached this step then you’ve managed to gain the trust of your peers, managers and the executive team—not to mention, gotten your initiative approved. You were prepared, you knew the subject matter well and you had the conviction to see it through to completion—what an achievement!
But the job isn’t done yet—it’s time to get ready to implement this exciting new initiative and watch all your hard work come to fruition.
Step 5: Planning your initiative
Now that you’ve got everyone on board, and they understand your vision to change the culture around quality, it’s time to get people focused in that mindset and have them realize that they are an important resource for the success of this initiative.
Compile a list of people and items you need and involve people from various areas of the organization. You want to make sure that those who are going to be a part of this initiative bring in their expertise and have a say in the common goal. A tip for you, remember those folks you went to get your buy-in, they are great advocates to have on your team.
At your kick-off meeting, you want to start with a goal/aim at hand. Members of you team and the organization need a clear goal that they are striving towards and what target are you hoping to reach. Once the goal has been established, you want to work together on forming an appropriate plan of execution.
Quality improvement often involved systemic changes, a task this big usually requires some frameworks to be put in place. Establishing framework(s) will help your team(s) get organized in order to start the process of a system change. The discipline of quality has mane measures and frameworks that can give you a start point, take a look at them and see what matters most to your organization. These benchmarking steps are crucial in progress of your initiative. They determine whether improvement is occurring and help you identify areas where your processes can/require change. The following journal article also identifies various examples on how to establish a system change: How to Begin a Quality Improvement Project
Once you have your frameworks and plans established, assign roles to each of the team member, so they understand what is expected of them. And lastly, don’t be afraid to try new things, remember your surroundings and circumstances can change, after all, healthcare is a complex space. Your plan should be able to adapt for those changes.
At the end of the day, you want to be able to find the right data (new or existing), break it down with factors that are applicable to your organization, make sense of the data and then drive change.