Getting buy in for change

Jo McPhail

Jo McPhail, Head of Talent, Diversity and Leadership Development at Foreign and Commonwealth Office shares her top tips to get buy in for change. Jo is facilitating the CIPD Performance Management Conference and Workshop which takes place on 5-6 December 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.



Do you want to rearrange the deckchairs, or do you want to make a step change?  For many of us, performance management looks and feels like an extension of the old “school report”. New tech systems are prompting us to change the methodology, but it’s worth really testing your organisation on whether they want a bit of technical change or a whole paradigm shift. Here’s my top tips for getting started:

As a professional, the chance to update looks like a no-brainer, but check in on how the organisation feels

Performance systems can be like old slippers – familiar, worn into shape, a bit threadbare and the odd hole – but just “easier” than change. Some people will replace them with a new pair of the same model; others will scout the market and think about what’s come round since they bought the last pair. And some people just can’t accept that the old ones are finished. We need to remember just how much familiarity hooks people, and how confusing change can be. So rather than taking the old slippers and throwing them in the bin, we should make sure we understand all the things that make them valuable and carry that forward.  And while we’re at it, gently shake out the bad bits, and use them to build the readiness for change.

What comes first:  the principles or the tech?

It’s true that new tech can drive change. But in reality, most colleagues will resist change that is seen to be tech-driven rather than a policy shift. The “no-slip technology in those slippers will make you run down the stairs twice as fast” has less resonance than gently asking “what would you like in a new pair of slippers?”, helping someone decide that running down the stairs is something they want to do, and that their current slippers don’t allow it…..  then the no-slip technology becomes an enabler, rather than a driver: it’s always important to remember that we design the best change, and bring people with us, when everyone can see the benefits.

A little imagination goes a long way

OK, so the slipper analogy is getting a bit tortured now. But my third point is about helping people imagine the future in a way that is relevant for their life. No point talking about running downstairs for someone who lives in a bungalow; but for each stakeholder, there’s a picture of the future that they can hold onto. Help them imagine it – whether it’s warm toes or smart and stylish mules. Do that well and they will be anxiously awaiting and running towards the change, rather than dragging their heels.


Jo is presenting in the case study titled “Gaining buy-in across your organisation for new people performance systems and platforms” at the CIPD Performance Management Conference and Workshop which takes place on 5-6 December 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.