Let them in!

For some time, there has been the notion that a more effective way to achieve buy-in from those impacted by an initiative is to allow them to participate in the development of the initiative.  Mounting research continues to give evidence to this idea.  Moreover, the findings also show that the degree to which the constituents’ ideas are ultimately incorporated into the final solution – in whole or in part – has much less impact on acceptance than merely allowing for the opportunity for those impacted by the outcome to voice their concerns and share their ideas.  Interestingly, every example I have been exposed to, there has never been one instance where at least some of the ideas or thoughts of the constituent body did not wind up in the end solution in some way.  (The short lesson here is valuable contributions come from all corners.  The art is to create the space to allow for these ideas to be forthcoming.)
In what I describe above is primarily thought of in the context of process formulation occurring from above and the underlings, in a corporate environment for example, being expected to fall in line/agreement/compliance, etc.
What I am witnessing in my current assignment – and I have witnessed in the past but was less aware of it – is that the impact of acceptance and buy-in works in the other direction as well.  I am presently involved in working with a non-US based pharmaceutical company in developing analytical decision-making methodologies on which they can rely to determine how to best allocate resources in keeping in line with corporate objectives.
I digress in sharing that as a career consultant, I am all too familiar with the adages around  the money spent on consultants to produce a report that no one ever uses and many might even object to – even those that hired the consultants.   The metaphorical 300 page doorstop comes to mind.
However, what I am witnessing is a greater degree of acceptance from those in higher ranks when two things are in place. First, they have to recognize the value in the effort. Second, and no less important, is that they too must be drawn into the development process.  To better describe what I am pointing to, I recently heard comments about a report produced by a consultancy that was perceived by the client as extremely underwhelming.  In this case, the consultants came in, interviewed some key people, left to put together their findings and suggestions then submitted their work product (along with the invoice of course).  While this is certainly a simplified version of the process, it underscores the lack of on ongoing engagement between client and consultant.
My more recent experiences demonstrated to me the power of upward involvement in solution acceptance.  The small consultancy with which I am contracted has, in my opinion, put this very idea into practice.  True story, we were in an information gathering session with the CEO and a few of his direct reports with a slide on the screen that was nothing more than boxes with terms and phrases that they provided.  There was nothing fancy or even symmetrical about it whatsoever.  At one point, the CEO with one arm across his chest and the other in support of his chin as if in deep thought says, “I like this slide – it’s a working slide”.  It is this kind of upward inclusion that I truly feel provides much greater chance for acceptance and implementation of the the final work product.  It is certain to be more valuable than a doorstop. And I am also certain that we will come in far under 300 pages. (Who actually reads those huge reports anyway?)
In closing, I wish to clarify that I assume no credit in the creation or appearance of such a success.  I am only grateful to have the remarkable opportunity to be a part of this process and share with you the lesson I learned from it.
Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Matt G.

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