Buy-in : Complementary Approaches of Efrat and Kotter Shridhar Lolla, PhD CVMark Consulting As I read through the last page of Kotter’s Buy*in and got up from my easy chair, the door bell rang. My 8 year daughter attended the call and collected the courier. As her habit is, she carefully opened the box. By reading aloud, “Handbook”, she turned the pages and asked innocently, “what is this book about?”. I said, “TOC! It is about focus.” It was the TOC tome, ‘The Theory of Constraints- Handbook’. Ever since it was released last year, I wanted to see it in my hand. And here it was. “Oh really!” she exclaimed. While she quickly flipped through the pages to see if there is anything for her, I realized that FOCUS was the buzzword in our home during past 1 week, thanks to the TV channel that beamed Jackie Chan movie ‘Karate Kid’. These days, the movie is running kids crazy for its key word FOCUS, used in almost every alternate frames of Jackie. Jackie Chan talks less and when he talks, he says, Focus; the approach makes the kid a Karate exponent. “Oh no!” finding nothing of her interest there, she ran away into her room. … When I touched the book, page 571, chapter 20, The Layer of Resistance-The Buy in process according to TOC , by Efrat, was open in front of me. It was a sheer coincidence; and with Kotter’s Buy*in still fresh in my mind, I walked into my reading room holding the book open in my hands. At a quick glance the Buy*in process of Kotter and Efrat seemed same. They both start with 3 categories of questions to weave into buy-in process. Both advocate, not to avoid objections and accord respect to the other side. Both ask for preparation and place responsibility for the buy-in process on the proponent of the idea. The tactics for handling the objections/ attacks also seem pretty similar. Both talk about win -win results. Fundamental difference between the two is the situation considered for ‘buy in’. Kotter talks about highly urgent situations and a scenario of simultaneously dealing with multiple stakeholders. While Efrat talks about highly important and transformational situation where there 1 Copyright © 2010, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved. is enough time. (probably, a scenario of just a few and if possible one participant ?). Kotter talks about immediate ‘buy in’, while Efrat talks about a consultative and iterative approach and leaves time to the proponents preparation and level of understanding of participant. Most of the TOC literature give a feeling if they are actually written for consultants; while Kotter’s is for insider of an organization. The TOC way of buy-in seems good for one to one transformation process , while Kotter talks about buy- in from a group of people. Since Efrat talks about transformational situation, she also proposes to use the opportunity to create new knowledge about the clients. Efrat says that the ‘bad guy’ image of the other party must be taken out of mind while getting into the process of buy in, for people are good. Where as Kotter takes a practical path of including the NoNos, self centered, skeptics, stubborn etc. and using simple responses to buy them in. Most of TOC literature seems to give an impression of getting 100% WIN-WIN change; Kotter talks about substantial buy beyond 51% , that is practical enough. Of course both Erfat and Kotter caution about falling into circles in the process of buy-in that would jeopardize effort on an important change. … Within TOC applications, ‘buy in’ is often considered a marketing approach. The key to buy-in, as per Efrat is creating a sense of ‘Psychological’ ownership. She says that people must ‘FEEL’ that the change is theirs, it is their initiative. I am though a bit thoughtful if the other party must ‘THINK’ or ‘FEEL’ or actually be the change. And if the Buy in is just only to clear the psychological layer. She says that the layers of resistance is a way to build this sense of ‘psychological’ ownership, by sharing our (who?) ownership with others. She says, we must shed egos and must invite ‘inquiries and objections’. The idea is to know what truly bothers them. This process of inviting their queries is to know what really bothers them and finding answer to these, will help in filling the gaps in their understanding of change. She also says that some of their queries will actually add value to the change process. When some of their suggestions are included into the change process, we give them control of change. And thus we increase their ownership of the change. Which I believe is more than a psychological change in the other party. As theory of constraints approach is, she does not give a list of likely objections or resistance beyond 9 layers. Kotter, in his book, goes to those ‘specifics’ and not only gives 24 objections but also the direction to deal with them. 2 Copyright © 2010, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved. The underlying logic of TOCs limiting to 9 layers is perhaps the provision of thinking process (TP) and the tools embedded there. By using these tools at various layers, it would be possible to bring out all objections even if they are more than 24, and address them. In practical situations, you do get stuck in the ‘buy in’ process, and when you do, would you search the 24 directions in which objections would come or use the well practiced TP ( tools like CRT, Clouds, FRT, NBR, PRT, SnT Tree etc.)to clear the layer of resistance. It seems that for a long term engagement in transformation process, the latter is essential and as you move ahead, you can build upon the 24 directions Kotter gave. Efrat does recognize that a large change may have several different finer layers of resistance. And I guess you need to handle them on the go. There are a few listed differences though I find between the two, and practitioners must recognize them. … So what does Efrat say ultimately. First be aware of the three basic layers of resistances. Prepare yourself for discussion, by working on the 9 sub layers of resistances. Use TP in the preparation and anticipate the 9 sub layers of resistance and their variations. Be prepared for surprises in the type of resistances. Be ready to accept the objections. Involve the third party in articulating and including their valid objections and suggestions in the process of change. Initiate the discussion in the order of layers of resistance and avoid the temptation of hopping between layers. …… After going through the Chapter, when I flipped through the over 1200 page handbook, comprising almost every aspect of TOC body of knowledge, it looked handful. I got a pricy buy at Rs. 1200 /- (appx 25USD), at a significant discount on the cover price, at the online stores of Indiaplaza. 3 Copyright © 2010, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.