So you’ve drafted your business turnaround plan – the plan that will ultimately save your failing business. You’ve rolled it out with your team, you’ve got regular meetings scheduled in the diary. The only problem is, things seem sluggish. The team doesn’t seem engaged. Something’s wrong but you can’t quite place your finger on it.
I come across this scenario time and time again. If there’s one thing my business experience has taught me it’s this…
Having a business turnaround plan isn’t enough.
Why Isn’t My Business Turnaround Plan Working?
The solution to this problem is wonderfully laid out in the book, “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead And Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
In this book, they recount a story of how they were instructed by their command to lead Navy Seal missions with Iraqi fighters.
The problems were many. Iraqi fighters typically weren’t soldiers, they were often a flight risk, their equipment was out of date and no longer safe, to name a few. This was going to be tough.
The commanding officer held a meeting with their troops to explain the strategy and plan. As you can imagine, the plan was met with a lot of negativity.
However, the commanding officer did something which many business leaders do not.
They explained the ‘why’.
They explained that the reason they had to do this was that one day the Iraqi people would have to be able to defend themselves. At some point, they would need to be trained to fight. Who was going to do this? If the US did not train them now, then the US would keep having to serve in Iraq. They would keep having to do Iraqi tours and put their lives on the line. Someone had to teach them. They were the ones to do this.
Once the ‘why’ had been communicated, then there was more positivity towards the strategy and plan. Of course, there were some troops who weren’t fully bought into it at first but over time they got with the program.
During the ensuing months, the US troops and Iraqi soldiers were bound together with a strong bond – the why.
Why You Need To Explain The ‘Why’
Having a plan isn’t enough. If you want people to follow a plan then you need to tell them why.
Why have you got this plan?
Why have you put that initiative in?
Why will this work?
Once you explain the ‘why’, people follow.
People are purpose-driven. If you give them a strong, solid ‘why’ behind a plan then they are more likely to follow.
This is another way of saying, you are creating buy-in.
Getting Buy-In For Your Business Turnaround Plan
Firstly, take a step back and understand the why behind your business turnaround plan.
Of course one of the main reasons is to save the failing business. But go deeper.
Why are you laying people off?
Why are you firing certain suppliers?
Why have you changed the Sales Bonus structure?
Why are you holding Finance Meetings? (For more on Finance Meetings click here)
Face it, your business turnaround plan is going to have some very unpopular initiatives, and you may be asking your team to do some very hard things. But if they understand why it needs to be done, then they will not only buy into it, they will drive it!
How To Create Buy-In For Your Business Turnaround Plan
Write it Down
Once you have the ‘why’, then you need to put it down on paper. Clearly articulate the reasoning behind it. If you can’t articulate this in a few sentences then it is too complicated and you are running the risk of people not understanding it.
Explain It To Your Team In Person
Do not hide in your office and send this via email! Arrange a meeting with your key team members and explain the whole strategy. Start with the ‘why’. Your team will appreciate you doing this in person. You’re in a tough spot, you’ll be asking them to do some hard things. The least you can do is see them face to face.
Once you have gone through the ‘why’,m the strategy and the plan, then welcome questions.
Notice I said, “Welcome” questions.
Your team may have a fear of looking stupid by not understanding the plan. Ensure you create an atmosphere of asking questions. Tell them you’d rather they understood the plan fully before you go any further. You can even go as far to invite people to speak with you on a 121 basis if they want more clarity on certain aspects of the plan.
Do A ‘Check Of Understanding’
A ‘check of understanding’ is a brilliant tool to ensure that communication has happened in the right way.
When I am working with anyone, I will ask them for a check of understanding.
The person then relays back to me what they have understood from what we have just discussed.
Why do this?
Because what I have said and what the person understands can be worlds apart.
A check of understanding is a great tool to ensure people have actually understood what you have said.
After you have rolled out the plan, I would encourage you to do a check of understanding on various parts of the plan. Correct in a constructive manner where required. Don’t belittle people or go hard on them if they don’t understand. If they don’t understand something, it’s not their fault – it’s yours. Take ownership of the plan roll-out.