Internal Sales – Getting a Buy-In

Using Theory of Constraints to gain a Buy-In is one of the most powerful management applications of TOC

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) Thinking Processes are excellent tools for gaining buy-in. They form an essential part of the TOC sales approach … and also set the pattern for every element of an implementation.

In 2006 and 2007, there have been some breakthroughs for gaining buy-in to a high performance target, where the objective is to achieve aggressive “positives” rather than to eliminate negative performance aspects. The “Strategy and Tactic Tree” technique, unknown even a couple of years ago, has proven very effective in aiming at a buy-in for aggressive goals. I’ll document that separately, some time soon.

However, the majority of buy-in situations still deal with the elimination of performance issues or problems of one kind or another; and for these, the approach developed within the Theory of Constraints is rock-solid and proven. After almost 15 years of working with these techniques they are almost second nature to us, yet whenever we by-pass them – for example to shortcut the path to an agreement for the sake of speed, or limited time with a prospect – we ALWAYS regret it. It always comes back to bite us.
Often, someone attempting to introduce something new in an organization – no matter how solid the new idea – meets up to 5 layers of resistance, plus another layer of doubt. These are:

1.  Disagreement on the problem.

Especially if they have been associated with the problem’s symptoms, the people whose buy-in you want are convinced they know the problem. If your solution does not deal with their perception of the problem, you might as well quit and go home because they will never buy-in to your solution. One common aspect of this: belief that the problem (and solution) are outside of their control; it’s the fault of the customer, the bank, the vendor, the economy, … choose any one of the usual suspects.

They must agree with you as to the problem, and that the cause is indeed something within their control or influence, before you proceed to present a solution.

The first use of the Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes in this situation is to gain a strong consensus as to what the real problem is – and this is not trivial. This can take the biggest share of all the time associated with solving a problem, but it must not be skimped or skipped.

2.  Disagreement on the Direction of the Solution

Disagreement that your solution will in fact solve the problem, in terms of generating the desired outcomes, even if they have agreed as to the problem.

Again, those associated with the problem typically have their own “pet” solutions and if yours does not coincide with their solution, the best you will gain is lip-service support. The worst outcome is people actively working to prove your solution was not the “right” one.

3.  Skepticism that the solution will actually solve the problems

Even if the direction of the solution has consensus, there is still skepticism as to whether the detailed solution will actually deal with all the symptoms of the problem.

The Future Reality Tree tool of the TOC Thinking Processes provides the mechanism to develop the baby-step cause-effect connections between a proposed solution and the detailed elimination of the symptoms.

4.  Yes, but … the solution will cause problems

Concern that your solution, one that might indeed offer a chance to solve the problem, will cause negative side effects, perhaps even larger than the symptoms being overcome. This is one of the biggest “yes, but….” causes.

You have to show, clearly and unequivocally, that you have anticipated the potential negative side effects and constructed a practical plan that they agree will avoid them.

Again, the Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes provide a technique for doing this.

5.  Yes, but … there are serious obstacles

The Obstacles standing in front of what you are trying to do are so large or numerous that they are all the other person(s) can see. If you don’t get past this barrier, another of the major causes of the “yes but…” reaction, your solution will be perceived as impractical.

You have to show very clearly that you have anticipated (not ignored!) the major obstacles (ones they agree with), and have a realistic plan to get around them.

6.  Doubt that you will ever get the collaboration of others.

It is very common for us to hear from management “this makes sense but you’ll never get the shop people to agree” and to hear from the shop floor of the same company “this makes sense to us but you’ll never get top management to buy-in.”

The Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes provide a superb suite of tools to expose and overcome each layer of resistance, to gain a buy-in so solid and deep that employees will even risk their jobs to see the solution – whatever it might be – implemented.

Return to home: Fast, massive performance improvements