The Art of the Buy-In

The most critical business skill you do not have.


Executives need buy-in every day. In today’s modern workplace, where terms like collaboration, co-creation, and teamwork are no longer buzzwords but a job requirement, buy-in is essential to the vertical ascension of any manager. For consultants, earning buy-in is just as important. Oftentimes, you are viewed as a hired sniper, targeting inefficiencies in resource allocation. This is a tough ditch to climb from.

Resistance to buy-in can come from all levels: upward, downward, and sideways. The implication of resistance can translate to a project not going through, a peer who will not provide resources, or a customer who rejects your proposal – all forms of failure in strategic execution. To master the art of the buy-in is to masterfully navigate the people puzzle of organizations. Easier said than done, sure, but here is a list of evident truths in securing buy-in.

  1. 1. Ooze OODA – OODA stands for observe, orient, decide, and act. It is a concept to decision making originally developed by military strategist Colonel John Boyd. Its relevance to business strategy was uncovered when Bruce Henderson adopted it as best practice for his consultants at The Boston Consulting Group. The sequencing here is important. Often, the person who says the least knows the most. Observing and orienting yourself with the personality types of the team will allow you to understand the motives of the people and the drivers of the business. It will afford you the proper preparation for how and when to make decisions, and the confidence to act in accordance to the organizational culture of which you’ve entered.
  2. 2. Prewire, prewire, prewire – Prewire is a term we’ve adopted from McKinsey & Co. It refers to the strategic sequencing of gaining the buy-in of change agents in the organization. A manager or consultant seeking buy-in should always be aware of the potential change agents. These are the people we bring in the process first.
  3. 3. Be a Question Docent – The key to getting better answers and information is to ask better questions. Your task is to guide the questioning so that you lead them to voicing the answers you need to reach a successful outcome. At eBoost Consulting, we use interrogatively-led questioning to dive deeper for information and reach the root of the problem.
  4. 4. Step on the gas pedal – Receiving buy-in is like uncorking a bottle of wine; once uncorked, it has a small window before it goes rancid. Moreover, once buy-in is earned from the team, you must drive your actions into overdrive. The key to motivation in most modern organizations – particularly in Gen X and Gen Y heavy companies – is progress. If the team has given you buy-in, then you must demonstrate the positive reinforcement of their good will by taking action.
  5. 5. Be sincere – None of the above steps work if you are insincere in your intent to help the company. Sincerity of your effort matters far and above all of the aforementioned. It is the key to securing buy-in. All the other steps are merely ways for you to turn the key and open the door to those possibilities.

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