You can have a revolutionary idea for your law firm (like switching to Macs), but without buy-in for it, it is bound to be a painful process. In his book Buy-In, Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter explains the importance of gaining others’ support to create real change: “Buy-in is critical to making any large organizational change happen. Unless you win support for your ideas, from people at all levels of your organization, big ideas never seem to take hold or have the impact you want. Our research has shown that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail, and one reason for this is executives simply don’t get enough buy-in, from enough people, for their initiatives and ideas.”
I have seen this firsthand countless times. We have migrated dozens of law firms over from PCs to Macs, and we have experienced both smooth transitions as well as some not-so-smooth ones. This issue is of course not limited to switching over from PCs to Macs, but influences all change-creating projects. Just because you are bought-in and are ready to make the switch does not mean your team will embrace it. I believe that this is one of the most important parts of planning and increases your chances of a successful implementation. You must strive to get buy-in from all those who will be. Keep in mind that you are dealing with people’s emotions; you must have a real dialogue with people.
When an upcoming project is simply announced with the “this is what we are doing” approach, it will often cause a lot of frustration among the staff. On the flip-side, when the Managing Partner takes the time to explain why something is being done and shares the benefits for everyone in the firm. This assists in getting higher buy-in from the staff, helping the project from start to finish go much smoother.
A couple of strategies to do this:
1. Tell it like it is.
Companies that are able to achieve breakthrough results exhibit disciplined patterns of thought, observes Jim Collins in Good to Great (Harper- Business, 2001). They infuse their entire decision-making process “with the brutal facts of reality.” When you start with “an honest and diligent effort to determine the truth of the situation, the right decisions often become self-evident.” Similarly, the single most influential factor in a change initiative is the extent to which leaders commit from the outset to open, honest, and complete disclosure.
Take the time to explain properly why you have decided to make this change. Explain the reality that there will be some temporary discomfort but that you have done your due diligence and researched the pros and cons. And that the pros will greatly outweigh the cons. Share with them how they will benefit. Again, keep their emotions in mind. Don’t just provide a financial cost analysis. Tapping into their emotions is what enables a change effort to gain traction. Make sure you provide specific examples that are compelling and will deliver a smack in the gut.
For a firm considering switching to Macs, some of these would be:
- The security concerns of operating a computer running Windows vs. Mac.
- The constant problems, frustrations, and lost time that accompany that.
- The outward effect of these problems being that they may cause the staff to work later, longer, and make their daily work more stressful.
- Our client would focus on showing his staff what the main problems are and how switching to Macs will resolve them.
2. Hear everyone out
Once you’ve completed step one, create a safe space for your staff to share their feelings and concerns. Listening well is more important than speaking well, it requires openness to everything credible. Hear them out first. Then address their concerns one by one.
In doing so, you make them feel heard and acknowledged, and you have a chance to help them prepare themselves for the change ahead of time. People need time to work through change and letting people in on an upcoming change creates a very different reaction than just telling them and not letting their voice be heard. They will have every legitimate concerns and ideas and may bring things up that you had not considered.
The financial impact of thoroughly planning your approach to getting proper buy-in will be well worth the hour or two you invest. They will be more forgiving during the process if there are temporary blips in the process. With a long-term vision having been clearly painted, they will be more willing to educate themselves on the nuances of the Mac and the ones who are more tech-savvy on your team will be more likely to embrace the change and share what they learn with others. Less time will be spent complaining and more time finding resources since your team will be bought into the vision of all the benefits that will be in it for them when they complete the switch to Macs.
The next time you will be making any kind of change in your firm, think about these steps. Slow down a bit. Get buy-in. Then see the walls of the change-fighters crumble (or at least lower a bit).