Everyday Lean: Getting Buy-In


When I was Cubmaster of Pack 404 we decided to get new t-shirts made. Older Scouts (about two dozen) in the unit had a previously designed shirt, but our newer Scouts (more than forty) didn’t have one. This gave us the opportunity for change. And change always brings risk.

A t-shirt may seem trivial, but it ends up being a large part of a pack’s identity. The last thing we wanted to have was a scenario where parents had a negative reactions each time they saw their Scout in the pack t-shirt.

So, how do you prevent this potentially negative reaction? You get buy-in from those involved in the change. How do you get buy-in? You ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Even if people don’t “get what they want,” it’s often enough they have their voice heard.

A simple tool to help people share their voice is ranked-choice voting, particularly when paired with multiple voting “rounds”. This voting style allows people to vote for their “favorite” thing, but still have input and influence if their preferred choice isn’t selected. An easy way to execute this is with dot stickers.

First round of dot voting

The above picture represents the first round of our dot voting. We had eleven leaders in attendance at the meeting where this was discussed. We gave each of them four green stickers and allowed them to vote for their favorite shirts.

They could cast up to two votes on any one shirt. This meant they could cast a “double vote” for two shirts, four single votes, or a “double vote” and two single votes. This allowed for a variety of inputs:

  • Two “double votes” – I REALLY like these two shirts.
  • One “double” and two singles – I REALLY like this shirt, and a kinda like these two.
  • Four single votes – I kinda of like these four shirts

Once we had that round of voting completed, we had two clear winners – the “Jedi Scout” and the “old school” silhouette. Interesting to note that the previous design – the blue shit in the middle – was one of the lowest vote getters.

But what happens if you voted for one of four shirts that weren’t preferred options? Did your voice not count? No. Because you would get to share your voice again, in the second round of voting.

Second round of dot voting

For the second round of voting, we took the shirts that were the obvious favorites (in this case two designs) and had people vote on their preference. In this instance we only gave out two red dot stickers.

With fewer voting options, we didn’t need to provide as many votes per person. The rules were the same, you could give a single or a double vote. And only red votes were counted in this round.

Leaders who preferred shirts were “left behind” in the first round of voting could still have a voice in the final decision. Even if their preference wasn’t chosen, they were an active participant in the process. And this entire voting process only took a couple of minutes.

Change is Hard

Change is hard. Most people don’t like change. And even when change is wanted and needed, managing change can often be difficult. So, how do you help make change go smoother? You get buy-in.

Betting buy-in isn’t taking a vote and proceeding with the winning idea. Those who didn’t vote for the “winning idea” may not give you their full support, and may actively work against the change.

Buy-in is about engaging your constituency, listening to their viewpoints, and addressing as many concerns as you can. These activities are important for all types of change, even those that you may feel are minor. Leveraging simple tools to help others feel heard can make all the difference.