In their book Blue Ocean Strategy, authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne address getting “buy-in” from your people. They write about three mutually reinforcing elements that define what they refer to as “fair process”: a)engagement, b)explanation and c)clarity of expectation.
Whether people are senior managers, secretaries, technicians or sales reps- they all look to these elements when we ask them to do something new. Kim and Mauborgne refer to these elements as the three “E principles” of fair process. Here’s how they work in small businesses.
Engagement: This means “involving individuals in the strategic decisions that affect them by asking for their input and allowing them to refute the merits of one another’s ideas and assumptions.” Here’s an example of what this means.
On a recent business trip I was sitting next to a pilot who flew for a jet fractional ownership company. We had never met before we sat down, but he wasted no time voicing his frustration to me about how the upper management of his company doesn’t ask for employees’ opinions regarding important decisions affecting front line employees. He was especially incensed by management’s habit of informing front line employees of policy changes by sending emails to their Blackberries.
This intelligent, highly trained individual wasn’t concerned about the company’s accounting practices, sales initiatives or hanger maintenance. He was troubled because he felt like he did not have a voice in the corporate decisions that affected his job and the rules surrounding how he performed his work. And he should have been! His point came across loud and clear … ask your people for their input before you go and change the rules that will affect them!
Explanation: Everyone involved and affected should understand why final strategic decisions are made as they are. An explanation of the thinking that underlies decisions makes people confident that managers have carefully considered all opinions- including the feelings of the affected employee. Once Explanation has been made employees will feel that decisions have been made impartially and fairly- driven by the overall interests of the company and not just for the personal gain of the owners or upper management.
This doesn’t mean everybody has to agree with the decision. But it’s vital that they understand WHY decisions are made. Achieving this goal requires lots of explanation and communication with your people. Frequently more than you’re used to or even comfortable with! But remember, the objective here is to communicate until your people understand. Not just until you feel you’re “all talked out”.
Expectation Clarity: This requires that after a strategy is set (and explained) you now clearly state the “new rules of the game”. Don’t just assume your people understand the new rules. If there are new performance measurements, write them down and make sure everyone sees and understands them. Here you might find it helpful to go back to my previous post and review “Different Learning Styles”.
NOTE: Steve Toburen, Director of Training with Strategies for Success, has a favorite saying: “Clearly defined expectations are the basis for all successful relationships”. And so it is…
Therefore, if you find the people in your organization struggling with “not doing” the things you think you’re “saying” to them just maybe the bottleneck isn’t with your people at all. Maybe it’s because you haven’t expressed yourself clearly or thoroughly enough. Or maybe you should have asked for some input from them before you changed the rules.