There's change that starts at the grassroots level, where the people who hold the vision for change don't have the authority to just make it happen. What can help?

Even if the person with the vision does have official authority to make the change, what can help them get real buy-in?


6 Answers 6


Change is not an event, but a process.

You have to start small, start introducing your ideas to individuals and groups who will become intrigued about it and will support it. You will need to make them so interested that they want to become involved in or part of this new idea you are proposing. You need additional champions to further create buy-in.

A known framework for introducing change is ADKAR

A . . . . Awareness of the need for change

D . . . . Desire to participate and support

K . . . . Knowledge how to do it

A . . . . Ability to do it

R . . . . Reinforcement of the change

There are several micro-strategies to start creating the first two. A very good book on this and one I recommend is "Fearless Change. Patters for introducing new ideas" from Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising, Addison Wesley 2005, ISBN 0-201-74157-1

  • Thank you, Stephan. This was the kind of answer I was looking for -- reference to known frameworks. Commented May 3, 2011 at 17:12

My two biggest tools are Trust and Value.

Trust: You need to have built trust in your organization. You need to be seen as compentent, knowledgable, and someone who listens. If you don't have that trust, you won't get people to even listen.

Value: "What's in it for me?" No matter what the organizational change will do, you need to tailor the message to each adopter (person or organization) as to how it will benefit them. If they don't see a value, then they don't have a stake in the game. No incentive is a powerful uphill battle.

Best, Joel Bancroft-Connors


I second Joel's trust and value. Especially the former. As long as people in the organization don't trust you it's likely it will fail.

However I'd take a step further. You may or may not have trust relationship with people around. So you might want to actually show them the value of change.

What you need is small group of people who you can convince to your idea. Then you need to figure out how to run it in small scale. Most of ideas don't have to be implemented company-wide from the day 1.

If we took as an example implementing new approach to project management it's enough to find a single, possibly small, project with people willing to try something new. Actually if you want to run something in small scale you probably won't even need to bother decision-makers, and if so, they would likely agree as small experiment doesn't really hurt them.

Then you need consistency. I've seen a number of good ideas which were abandoned only because people expected instant results. Well, most likely they are not coming. So you better get your people prepared for a marathon, or at least middle-distance run than a sprint.

After some time, when results of small-scale change are visible it's time to spread the word. Actually a bit of boast isn't probably that bad idea. Anyway, when people see that it works they're more willing to jump on the bandwagon. And then it's easier to convince authorities to implement change in big scale.

And that is when you can make great use of veterans from the initial team, as they know how the thing works and can serve with their knowledge when spread over different teams within organization.

This is how you earn trust and show value.


One situation you may encounter more in small companies than in larger ones is the person who can make the change won't make it because it will make that person appear to have been wrong. These are situations you cannot fix, so it is best to identify them when possible.


And never forget: Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Unfortunately not my words, and not my article: http://www.parshift.com/Speakers/Speak016.htm


...the people who hold the vision for change don't have the authority to just make it happen. What can help?

How do we know that this vision is the right one and the best one? If these people don't have the authority - maybe this is how it should be? At least this is how the organization want to place these people, giving them zero authority in certain fields. It's a clear message from the organization - "I don't want to listen to you".

If you think that there is a misunderstanding, and the organization should listed to these people - try to convince the management. Try to change this attitude. Try to become part of the management.

The bottom line: don't blame the organization, blame yourself for being too far from its decision-making center.

  • 3
    Just because you have authority doesn't mean you're the best person to make the decision either.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 16, 2011 at 8:00
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    Sorry, I have to agree with Yegor. You're correct that authority doesn't automatically mean you have the right vision, but the reverse is also true. Just because you don't agree doesn't mean you know better. There may be a number of factors influencing the vision that you're not privy too. 'Authority' and 'management' don't always equal 'wrong'. Commented Apr 16, 2011 at 19:30
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    @Trevor don't be sorry to agree, just upvote the answer :)
    – yegor256
    Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 5:53
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    @Trevor - If we discourage people from trying to be leaders and influence change then we'll end up with a bunch of mouth-breathing followers. In most of our fields, we're working with smart people who need to be a part of the process. If you're dealing with a bunch of teenagers working at McDonalds then sure, you'll probably want them to just do what they're told. But engineers and people who are invested need true leadership and the ability to control their environment to some degree.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 18, 2011 at 3:57
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    @Jmort - I don't disagree with you, and I'm not suggesting that we discourage people from trying to be leaders. What I'm cautioning against is the automatic view of "I know better." It's dangerous to assume that because you disagree with a decision, that you must know better and that those above you only got there through the Peter Principle, or that because they're in mgmt they don't qualify as "smart people" as well. While there are some fools in mgmt, it's also true that most of them go there by being pretty good at their jobs. Companies don't survive if all of mgmt are imbeciles. Commented Apr 18, 2011 at 20:58

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