Struggling with people resisting making the changes you know you need to make in your organization? Don’t know how to get buy-in from people so that you can change things for the better? Challenged by an undercurrent of resistance to your attempts to move your business forward?

Executive Summary

Do you want to change your organization? First you need a communications and marketing plan to get employees on board, explains Executive Coach Marsha Egan. Employees need to understand what’s in it for them and how they will be impacted by the changes you’re contemplating.

Have you ever tried to change anyone? Everyone knows how difficult it is to change their spouses. (Ever tried it? Not all that pretty.) Even more, have you ever tried to change something about yourself? Not an easy task, is it? Just think of those failed New Year’s resolutions. It takes a lot of effort and concentration to change—even small things.

So, why would it be any easier to change things in a business or community organization?

I will never forget the time, in my early years in corporate America, when I had to make some changes with our group. Piece of cake, I thought. I just held a quick meeting, told everyone what we were changing and dismissed them. Like I said, piece of cake.


I checked on the new change a few days later, and guess what? No one was doing it. Hmmm. What went wrong? Didn’t they understand me? When I asked, I was met with shoulder shrugs. Then one brave soul whispered, “we were afraid it would eliminate our jobs.”

I was taken aback. It was not going to eliminate their jobs; it was going to make their jobs better. After I convinced them of that, we started to make headway. It was a lesson for me to realize that motivating people and processes to change is not about tasks. It is about something else.

Rather than focus on whether the change is right or not, we need to take it a step further. We need to make sure that the people affected by the change understand why it is right and how it will impact them. Unfortunately, this piece can be overlooked by changemakers. And it could be the most important part.

Without buy-in, there is no commitment. Without commitment, the change can fail. This can happen to even the most appropriate, most perfect solutions. If the affected people do not buy in, your chances of making the change work can be reduced.

So, how do we promote positive change in our organizations?

I would like to suggest that we shift our thinking about implementing a change from that of being just a task to including a marketing and sales effort. By embracing the idea that implementing a change is about convincing all the stakeholders to buy in, we can now move forward to exactly what that means.

More From Marsha Egan

Marsha Egan is a regular contributor to Carrier Management. Some of her most popular articles include:

This means a communication plan. By planning for and communicating the details and benefits of the change, we can speed up commitment. This means looking at each affected position—or person—and figuring out how specifically the change will benefit them, and what their concerns and fears may be. As an example, someone in the sales department may be impacted differently than someone in shipping and receiving. By looking at positions from the viewpoint of the people in those positions, we can better craft the right ways to communicate the benefits of the change.

Once you have established the “sales points” to gain buy-in to the change, the next step is to come up with a plan that can work. The more complex the change, the more elaborate the plan. All types of communications can be used: a letter from the CEO, newsletters, emails, small group meetings, large meetings, focus groups, managers sharing “talking points,” videos, recorded audio messages, etc.

Once there is a plan, implement it. Then listen closely for feedback. People need a chance to ask questions, share concerns and provide ideas. Be sure to provide forums for people to respond—and for the leadership to respond with answers that can help.

The biggest challenge is to do it. Not giving attention to the actual selling of the change could be one of the most serious roadblocks in having that great change implemented.

Change is here to stay. The groups who know how to effect positive change faster will have an edge. That means securing the buy-in from everyone involved, and as quickly as possible. And this is when convincing trumps telling.