Communication or Consultation or Participation

How do I get buy-in for change?

There are 3 elements required for effective system implementation, and anyone familiar with the ISO standards (ISO9001, ISO45001, ISO31000) may recognize the terms Communication, Consultation and Participation.

Let’s use the example of an architect designing a house.They look at the block of land and understand the constraints posed in the form of engineering and council requirements, then they consult with the client about the type of home they might desire and will communicate any specific restraints posed.

Did you pick up the subtle difference here? The architect communicates the known factors that the client can’t change, and then consults to understand the client’s needs and desires.

When a draft design is ready, the architect will consult again to get feedback from the client. The architect takes that feedback and refines the design further. The consultation process requires the architect to actively seek feedback and factor it into the design.

Once a design is agreed, the client might then actively participate in the decision-making to a small extent – perhaps the choice of fixtures and fittings. If they don’t participate in this activity, the architect will choose the fixtures and fittings on their behalf, and they may have a chance to give feedback on the choice.

To avoid multiple back and forth, it can be helpful to have the client more actively involved at this stage. In this step the client is not just providing feedback to the architect; they are seeking the solutions and bringing them to the table for discussion with the architect.

The ultimate aim is first understanding, then agreement and ultimately cohesion between parties.

If you are designing or implementing a management system, think of yourself as the architect and your employees as the homeowner. It can be very helpful to define (perhaps in a procedure or guideline) when you will communicate, when you will consult, and when employees will participate in planning, implementation and improvement activities.