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#81 Building Buy-In Is Easy

by Steven Cerri on January 29, 2009

“When you know what to do”

Hello everyone!

The big question is…

I often get asked these questions: “Steven, how do you get buy-in from people?” or “In this difficult business environment, how do you get people to buy-in instead of worrying about other things that take them away from what they need to be accomplishing?” or “How do I get the team to give buy-in and have everyone pull in the same direction?”

It doesn’t much matter how you phrase the question… it usually boils down to “How to I get everyone to agree to contribute their best efforts to what I want them to be doing?”

The answer comes in 3 parts and Part 1 is…

If you read my Ezine/Newsletter of last week, you know that the first part of the answer to getting buy-in is to understand that no one does anything they don’t want to do.

So getting buy-in is not about getting people to buy-in because they feel that they have to do something they don’t want to do.

You get buy-in by getting people to do something they want to do. The goal is to get them to do what they want to do in such a way that it dovetails with what you want them to do as well.

Part 2 of the answer is…

If people are only going to do what they want to do, and if you want to align what they want to do with what you want them to do, it is important that you understand the motivation of your team members.

You can generalize to some extent but each person is motivated by something a little different and you have to understand this. And this is not rocket science, but it does take some special attention to detail. Here is and example of what I mean.

An example…

Several years ago I was working inside a printer company. Most manufacturers have a number they watch. The number is titled, “First Pass Yield”. When a product, in this case a printer, comes off the assembly line it’s tested to see if it will work “right out of the box”. The ratio of those that work to those that don’t is called the First Pass Yield.

Those printers that don’t work must to be repaired by hand with labor and maybe parts added to the original cost. If the first pass yield for a specific product falls to low, the product line will make no profit. If it falls even lower, the product line will actually lose money.

The particular printer company in this example had a certain printer line that had problems. The first pass yield was around 75%. This was definitely a loosing proposition. The cost of reworking 25% of the printers before they could be shipped guaranteed that this printer line was not profitable.

The CEO established a “Tiger Team” made up of a representative from each department. These included manufacturing, manufacturing engineering, procurement, quality assurance, receiving, test, and sustaining engineering.

This Tiger Team met every week and it had been doing so for 16 months. During that time, First Pass Yield remained stuck at 75%.

Finally the CEO asked me to join the Tiger Team and determine what if anything could be done.

I joined the team, and while I had authority because the CEO sent me into the meeting I didn’t use it.

At the first meeting I introduced myself and then I just listened as the meeting went on. I may have asked a question or two, but essentially I was a “fly on the wall” just observing and listening.

At the second meeting I told the team that I had some questions I’d like to ask, and I respectfully went around the table and asked each person what their responsibility was and what they thought the real issues were.

As I went around the room I listened for what answers were being given. Did they think it was someone else’s fault or responsibility? Did they think it was a poor design? Did they not have any idea? Did they think that the answer was right around the corner? Did they understand the fundamental problem(s), the fundamental forces involved with First Pass Yield?

By the time I went around the table, I had a relatively clear idea of who was “moving toward a higher first pass yield” and who as “moving away from a lower first pass yield”. I was also clear about who saw this as an opportunity and who saw this as a problem. And I saw who was “passing the buck” to someone else and who was willing to jump in and figure out a solution.

After I went around the table I then gave the meeting back to the quality assurance manager who had been leading the meetings and I went back into “observation” mode.

First Pass Yield is all about statistics…

Those of you in manufacturing know that First Pass Yield is all about the statistical reliability of individual components that make up the product. Since I used to teach statistics at the college level, I understood the implications of what was happening to the printer line.

By the third meeting is was clear to me that members of the team didn’t understand the issues around statistics and First Pass Yield. Therefore, in third meeting I took the lead and I told the team that the challenge was essentially one of statistical reliability of the printer components. I then gave them a mini-statistics course in 15 minutes.

This printer had only 5 independent components. Some coming from China. Some manufactured in the U.S. and all five of them assembled at the company’s manufacturing facility. All we had to do was increase the statistical reliability of each of those five components and we were home free.

Here comes the buy-in…

Now the challenge was to get buy-in from each of the Tiger Team members so they would focus on the component reliability that they were responsible for and stop pointing fingers and chasing ideas that didn’t matter.

Most of the team members were hungry for some sign of success after 16 months of 75% First Pass Yield. So when I gave direction, suggestions of what to do in order to adjust our test and reliability procedures, many of the team agreed.

There were certain people however, who really understood the relationship between statistical reliability and First Pass Yield. They got it intuitively. To these people I gave more work and more responsibility. I knew they could be trusted to understand the complexity of what we were doing and the inter-relationships between components. And they wanted the freedom to use their judgment. So I gave them more open-ended direction and suggestions.

To others, who didn’t get the subtleties of what we were doing so well, I gave very clear direction. They were not given such wide latitude to express their own judgment.

And with regard to the one person who was not going to give me buy-in, I removed him from the Tiger Team. It became clear this person was not going to move forward for the benefit of the team and the printer line and it was clear that his power and authority were more important to him than working as a team for the benefit of the product line. Therefore, within a matter of four weeks from the time I joined the team, I removed him from the team.

If you want to know how we did (we did very well) and you want to know what I did to get buy-in, you can get the rest of this story in my Ezine/Newsletter at:

Steven’s January 26, 2009 Newsletter

Be well,

Steven Cerri

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