I remember working with a high school leadership team once. They had attempted to implement an initiative in their school. Unfortunately, they were in tears due to the frustration of working without administrative support.
My response to the team was to stop working on the initiative alone, start focusing on buy-in, or wait for a leadership change.
John Kotter wrote a related short story, based on his research, called Our Iceberg is Melting. Its premise is to help the reader bring people through seasons of change. In the book, he describes how a group of penguins encouraged their community to move before their iceberg melted. It’s a great story that I recommend for leadership teams. In the book, he outlines four steps for leading change through any season.
1. Set the stage. Create a sense of the need for the change and why you they you need to act immediately. Establish a team that has: authority, credibility; communication, analytic,and leadership skills; and a sense of urgency.
2. Decide what to do. Create a vision for the future, contrast that with what you have been doing. Also, describe how you will make the future a reality (create draft your plan).
3. Make it happen. Communicate your vision with the goal of having as many people as possible comprehend and support your effort. Empower your team by removing any barriers in their way. Create quick visible wins, and share them! Press even harder after your first success.
4. Make it stick. Create an improved culture by encouraging new ways of behaving until they replace old habits. Train your teams and hire for your new mission. Possiblly, share some of team members with the competition, but only after every effort has been made to support them. With good organizational culutues, a changing of the guard begins to happens through self section.
Example. Another high school was in the initial stages of a new initiative. There was evidence the approach could work in their school, but they had few examples to share with their staff. They had gone through the set up stage and needed a quick win. Remembering the rule that if it did not happen in a setting like ours, it did not happen, they created a pilot. The team piloted their approach with their summer school teachers. That fall when staff members asked if they had any examples from a high school, they said, “yes, let us show you our data!”
The steps by Kotter work just as well people as they do for penguins. For a more detail on this last example see this study. Kotter also has other great research-based ideas for getting buy-in which I included in another blog. I wonder if you have seen any of these examples in your work. Please leave a comment on my website about your experiences. I would enjoy learning from you.