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Buy-in vs ownership

Posted on: July 12, 2016

Mention systemic or organisational change in schools and you will invariably hear a few phrases like taking baby steps, involving stakeholders, and creating buy-in.

These and other practices are critical to making change that is actually worthwhile and effective. However, the change processes often have unspoken assumptions. For example, I unpacked what is wrong with taking baby steps.

Today, I focus on buy-in.

Creating buy-in among stakeholders of change is important because if they are not aware of the need or do not believe in the change, the effort is doomed from the start.

However, it is not enough to simply create buy-in. Buy-in is a state of mind. It is about understanding what the change is, projecting possibilities, and deciding to be associated with it.

The message to buy into can sometimes remain someone else’s property. Stakeholders may understand the rationale for change, but still think “This is not really our problem or that is your solution!”

Buy-in is a state of mind. Ownership is a state of being.

What is missing is ownership. Ownership is a state of being. It is a sense of belonging.

Creating this type of ownership is less traditionally top-down and more socially bottom-up. Depending on the structure of organisation, ownership can also be generated middle-up-and-down by an empowered group that deeply understands both ends.

Creating buy-in tends to be associated with the process of communicating change. It typically involves engaging stakeholders at the early phase of change efforts.

However, ownership is about articulating change. It is not only about connecting with stakeholders, but also moving them and empowering them to take action. Creating ownership is a continuous, multi-phase process.

Buy-in is a state of mind. Ownership is a state of being. It is far more important and effective to create ownership of change.

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