• Kevin S. Smith

Buy-in Is Boss

If you have ever been a part of a major business initiative you already know that one of the most difficult aspects of achieving success is getting buy-in. The same holds true for implementing or improving your quality management system. Getting everyone involved and engaged in the process is always a challenge - and an important one to overcome whether you are implementing for the first time, or making improvement to a system already in place.

The lack of engagement and buy-in works directly against the core purpose of a quality management system (QMS). After all, quality management systems are designed for continuous improvement. Without key stakeholders buying into the program, the struggle only gets worse as time goes on instead of better. Employees fail to take initiative to address potential risks, communicate opportunities for improvement or hold one another accountable for working the systems. When this happens, the system fails to work effectively.

The same is especially true when leadership fails to truly engage. Without leadership buy-in, others quickly see the facade of commitment and follow suit. Employees see no example of what excellence looks like and so they default to their normal behavior, mindset, and activity.

The fact of the matter is that until people buy into the program, the requirements of you system will continue to be viewed as "extra work" instead of "the way you work".

The good news is that when we begin to gain support and engagement in the system, you can see the return on your investment of time, money, and energy. When employees buy-in they take initiative to make things better and drive continual improvement, hold one another accountable, and the line between the quality management system and "normal operations" begin to disappear.

Here are four tips for gaining buy-in for your ISO 9001:2015 quality management system.

1. Forget the ISO 9001:2015 jargon

Your quality management system has to be yours. Just because your installing your system to comply with ISO 9001:2015, does not mean you have to reference it every time you speak about your QMS. When you communicate to those in your business that it is an "ISO System" or something is being done because it is an "ISO Requirement" you are removing your commitment in place of a book of requirements. Once you have committed to adopting an ISO 9001 system, simply make those requirements your requirements and communicate them as yours. People are much more likely to hop on board a system that you

For example, when you hear the word "audit' what comes to mind? Nothing good, right?? But organizations continue to use that word when assessing their processes simply because that is "what ISO says you need to have". The truth is, it doesn't matter what you call them as long as you are going through the process. So lose the confusing and baggage-carrying jargon and make your system your own.

2. Communicate the current problem and the future solution - in their language.

An effective quality management system solves a ton of problems when properly implemented. The key to garnering more buy-in is effectively communicating what those problems are and how the system is going to make it better.

Your system has a different impact on different people depending on what processes they may be involved in. If you can shape communication base on the different stakeholders that are affected and begin to speak their language - it becomes easier for them to see the benefits of the system.

One great option is to engage with one stakeholder in each process who is a high performer and typically supportive of change. Ask them what may be the best way to communicate the benefits of the system to the rest of the people in their processs

3. Start with the 10%

Many times when we start a large initiative, we communicate the changes to the masses in order to beat the rumor-mill. There is often a better way.

In most organizations there is a subset of employees who are highly-engaged and always onboard for new things. Gather these folks together brainstorm ways to communicate the plans to the rest of the organization. If this 10% can get another 5% on board, you are far more likely to reach a tipping point of momentum that makes the road to implementation a lot easier.

4. Leaders first

Let me be clear. If leadership is not engaged in your ISO program, it will not work. You may be able to obtain your certificate and tell customers and potential customers that you are certified (to ISO 9001:2015 for example) but you won't own the system - the system will own you.

Now, I realize that many organization adopt quality mangement systems (especially ISO 9001:2015) simply because a large customer required the certification. This however should be the spark, not the end-game. Once the decision has been made to get certified, it's time to internalize the reasoning, get to understand the benefits, and adopt the system as your own.

Leaders have to get engaged first, engage most, and remain engaged with the most consistency. This is contagious and will drive your results moving forward. If you are a mid-manager or are in charge of implementation, be sure to inform top management of their responsibilities and the benefits or their ongoing engagement.

Good luck, and keep it simple.


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