Do you believe the people whose lives are affected by your program or service should have a say in how the program is run? Do you sometimes feel like you’re the only one who believes that listening to them is important? We hear you.
Time after time, our partners have told us that getting buy-in for feedback projects is one of the hardest parts of building feedback loops. It is also incredibly important. Why is buy-in so important? Without buy-in from constituents you risk not getting honest feedback. Securing buy-in from stakeholders – from constituents to staff to decision makers and everyone in between – is critical to being able to successfully close the feedback loop. Without buy-in from decision makers you risk not being able to act on the feedback you collect. Buy-in lends legitimacy and authority to the entire feedback process and increases the likelihood that you will be able to translate constituent feedback into actionable change.
When we draw out the feedback loop diagram, we label buy-in as step 0 – it has to happen first, but also continuously. Throughout your feedback practice you must convince all stakeholders involved that listening to perceptual feedback and acting on what you hear is important, and get them excited about the process. Wondering how to do that? First, you must get buy-in from your organization’s leadership. Decision makers have great power to incorporate feedback into organizational strategy, and building their trust and commitment to the feedback process can make it more likely that they will do so. But getting buy-in from some can be harder than others and we often hear from our feedback champions that convincing their boss is the hardest part of getting started.
Here are three things we recommend you try when championing a new feedback practice at your organization:
Decide whether the right, smart, or feasible argument is best. Listening to constituents and adapting your programs in response to their feedback is the morally and ethically the right thing to do from a standpoint of equity, the smart thing to do because it can lead to better outcomes, and the feasible thing to do when you have the right tools. But, not everyone will find each of these arguments equally convincing. Identify how your leadership works and which argument they are the most likely to respond best to, and then buckle down on that one.
Identify respected peer institutions that have implemented feedback successfully. We know that people are far more likely to engage with a new or challenging endeavor if a peer recommends it. Peer-to-peer learning means that a trusted individual has already done the knowledge gathering, vetting, and use and therefore is able to accelerate your own organization’s shift from knowledge to implementation. Once you’ve identified your trusted peer institution, find and tell a success story that closely mirrors the feedback work you hope to embark on. Bonus if you can align it to the argument you identified above! For good examples from peer institutions, check out other blogs in this series that feature examples of feedback in action.
Choose your internal champion. Buy-in from leadership doesn’t have to start at the very top. We see organizations that champion feedback practices from two angles or levels of engagement to be the most successful. Consider who within your organization may be an advocate for listening practices and whose position is different than your own. Ask for this individual’s perspective on numbers one and two and adapt your plan accordingly. Understanding internal politics and seeking feedback from colleagues first can help you deliver the message in the most effective way. Bonus if you can get this person to pitch your feedback plan with you to leadership.
Finally, it’s important to remember that securing initial buy-in from the start is a necessary (but not sufficient!) condition for the success of any feedback loop. If you would like to learn more about the stages of the loop and why each matters, check out Feedback Fundamentals. If you would like personalized help with your feedback loops, our expert partners can help.