How-to: Tips on Getting Buy-In from Project Stakeholders?

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Chris Smith 8 years, 11 months ago.

  • Author
  • #165038

    Steve Ressler

    Recently, I was meeting with a local government leader who was working on a very innovative project – had lots of great support from leadership – but was struggling getting buy-in from project stakeholders.

    While they weren’t overtly making the project, they just didn’t seem interested in seeing the project succeed (not responding to requests, no enthusiasm, etc).

    Any tips on getting buy-in from project stakeholders?

  • #165050

    Chris Smith

    We recently implemented a new web content management system within an enterprise that had 120 content editors (stakeholders). We knew that to be successful, we needed their buy-in, especially from the more vocal individuals. We created a “VIP” group for certain individuals to give them access to the system early, get their feedback, and hear their thoughts.

    As a result, the stakeholders felt engaged and listened to. When the project rolled out, we had their buy-in, which made the entire process much easier.

  • #165048

    Steve Ressler

    I like that concept of a VIP

  • #165046

    David B. Grinberg

    Great question, Steve, I also like the VIP concept articulated by Chris. To paraphrase LBJ, it’s better to have them (stakeholders, detractors) inside the tent spitting out than outside spitting in. Explain to stakeholders how their success is directly or indirectly linked to the success of the project. Sign a partnership agreement or MOU to work collaboratively, issue a joint press release or stage a joint photo-op so stakeholders have a real sense of ownership in a successful project’s outcome. Explain the worst case scenerio of project failure and how it would be detrimental not only for your org, but for stakeholders as well. Focus on common areas of agreement for the project generally, and your joint missions in particular.


  • #165044

    Mark Sullivan

    I’m starting with the assumption that when you characterize the project as ‘very innovative’ that it is also disruptive to the status quo. There is a reason why systems are hard to change; it’s because all systems are self-replicating. At it’s best, we call this sustainability. At it’s worst we call it entrenched culture. Stakeholders who are invested in the status quo don’t have to actively fight change in order to forestall innovation. Often all they need to do is passively withhold support. It isn’t even necessarily malicious. It may be just a fear of losing authority, security, or competence.

    The key is in provoking/evoking a sense of common aspiration so that others begin to own the work. Convening a VIP group is a good example of giving ownership to stakeholders. Another option may be reaching out to key stakeholders, and building allies who can influence others. I would also suggest finding the most ardent objectors (who might otherwise try to mobilize others against the project) and find out what concerns they might need to have addressed (e.g., budget, control, training) in order to feel secure enough that they don’t feel compelled to derail efforts.

  • #165042

    Jerry Schmidt

    Change management is the most difficult type of management to undertake and/or to have buy-in. The phrase that used to always drive me insane was “It’s never been done that way before.” You have to articulate how the change makes things better and provide whatever proof you can: other instances of applications in similar settings. I like the idea of a VIP group, and it allows people to feel even more engaged in the change itself. This is an area where you need to keep selling and (to quote Journey) “Don’t stop believin'”.

  • #165040

    Allison Primack

    Here are some tips shared on GovLoop’s Facebook:

    Scott Primeau Involve them as early as possible. Give them a chance to share their opinions. Incorporate their ideas as much as possible. Help them see what the project means to them.

    Edward Peters Dinner and drinks … Lots of drinks!

    Here are some additional responses from GovLoop’s Linkedin:

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