As you look ahead to implementing new strategic initiatives, how actively are you engaging with the senior leaders of your organization to let them know what's coming? 

This piece from Inside the Executive Suite lays out a number of questions you should be asking to understand what, who, and how you should be communicating to pave the way for successful implementation.

Gaining Leadership Buy-In for New Strategic Initiatives without Selling-Out

This series of questions provides a helpful road map for initiating change and gaining upward support for new strategic initiatives.

1. Determining the Organizational Latitude

The initial questions focus on determining how open an organization is to independent development of new strategic initiatives.

  • What types of new initiatives typically gain an okay / approval?
  • What types of new initiatives usually get more leeway, less oversight, and generous room for development and implementation?
  • What evidence exists to back up the answers to the previous two questions? Are there specific decision-making and support-building processes or oversight groups in place?
  • What has or hasn’t worked in the past to secure sufficient buy-in?

Asking these questions help you determine where you stand as well as your best options with a current initiative.

2. Assessing the Negotiating Position

The next set of questions pertains to understanding how to approach the conversations you need to have, and your best negotiating stance.

  • What must the final version of our initiative include so that the result is true to what we are trying to accomplish?
  • If executives are looking for changes, what potentially important areas are we willing to modify to get agreement to the overall initiative?
  • Are there aspects of the initiative that we are willing to give up or trade away to secure buy-in?

As a starting point, develop a short list of items that you see as must-have elements. This initial list could be based on what team members, the organization, and other internal participants have been told or have come to expect through their involvement in collaboratively developing a strategic initiative. The goal is to think ahead and consider the types of modifications that will be acceptable before executives ask for changes.

3. Identifying the Supporters and Dissenters

You also need to understand where the pockets of support for the new initiative lie within the organization. To further your sell-in strategy, determine:

  • Which individuals and / or groups must support this initiative for us to move forward to implementation?
  • What about it do they have to support, and how do they need to show their support (through a decision, funding, other resources, etc.)?
  • What will it take, individually and collectively, to secure their support?
  • Will any of the individuals or groups look to see if others are already supporting the initiative before they are willing to step up with their own support?

The second part of this exploration is more vital and higher-risk: identifying potential naysayers, especially the ones with enough power to do something about their dissent. Try to anticipate the potential challengers using these questions:

  • Who can kill this initiative outright (these are the aggressive dissenters)?
  • Who might kill this initiative indirectly through resistance, failing to deliver on commitments, or by using the corporate political landscape to create traps (these are the passive dissenters)?
  • What do people in each group believe right now? What do we need them to believe? What will get the dissenters to not try to kill the initiative?

The communication and buy-in path that emerges from these questions will suggest how much effort is ahead of us to gain buy-in. It will also provide clues as to whether it looks like you’ve started early enough to both secure the buy-in and launch the initiative on time.

Start Early to Gain Buy-In

No matter the approach you take to gain support for new strategic initiatives, the key is not putting off the selling step until later. Make this step happen early, and you’ll increase your chances of success.

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