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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

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How to Get Any Initiative or Project Unstuck 

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Very few projects or initiatives fail because the underlying idea is flawed. 

More than 80% of projects and initiatives stall because one (or more) of three key implementation elements are out of balance and can be ‘unstuck’ simply by rebalancing those three key elements.

In today’s video I share what the three key implementation elements are, and how you can use a simple model to identify where your stalled projects and initiatives need rebalanced to get back on track:

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Read The Transcript

In today’s video I want to share with you a really powerful framework that you can apply to any of your stalled initiatives – any project, or decisions that you tried to implement that have either stumbled, or they’re just not producing the juice that you would like them to.

Now, before I get there, I need you to come with me just for a moment or two while I give you the context as to where this all came from.

So, last week we had this month’s ‘Open hours’, or ‘office hours’ call for the Predictable Success Mastermind Group – that’s when we jump on a web conference at a fixed time,

And whoever’s available is available, and we get a chance to catch up, then we share common issues and talk about, you know, what’s worked for other folks when faced with the same situation.

And one of the issues that came up on the call this week was about ‘buy-in’, and the degree to which it’s important to achieve buy-in.

I’m not going to break the confidences of any of the members of The Mastermind Group. I’m not going to share any of the details of their specific situation, but it was interesting the degree to which this was clearly a common issue, one that we’d all faced from time to time.

How much time and effort do you put into achieving buy-in, and what do you get as a result of it? And is buy-in always necessary?

And it was that discussion – a very rich discussion – that later got me thinking about the role of buy-in overall, in any organization. And it has a specific role in getting you into Predictable Success and keeping you there.

Now, it’s important before I just show you this framework to understand that buy-in (to stretch a chemistry analogy), buy-in is an element not a compound.

‘Buy-in’ isn’t a thing in and of itself. It’s an element of something else that we’re trying to achieve. We bring it together with other elements to achieve a specific thing.

And here is that thing that we’re looking to achieve: Buy-in is one of the three elements that produces Empowerment.

Now for those of you that know the Predictable Success model, you’ll know that Empowerment is a specific thing. It’s more than a thing. It’s one of the 13 Imperatives. 


This (graphic above) is what we call ‘the Scalability Matrix‘ and these are the 13 things (and we’re not going to get into them at all in this video) – the 13 things that you’ve got to be really good at, in order to get into and stay in Predictable Success.

And so buy-in contributes to achieving Empowerment, but it does so along with two other elements: Buy-in (and I’m going to define that for you) is getting understanding and assent from your folks. So somebody understands what you’re trying to achieve, and assents to it.

Then you have their buy-in. Now, there’s a distinction between assent and agreement. I use ‘assent’ for a specific reason – ‘agreement’ means, not only do I assent to this, but I also agree with you that this is the right thing to do – and that actually, technically, isn’t necessary for buy-in.

For buy-in what you need is for folks to say “I actually maybe don’t agree with you that this is the right thing to do, but I assent to doing it. I’m here. I’m with you. I’m part of this Venture. I’m going to do this thing for the greater good and to get it happening.”

So buy-in (which is understanding and assent) is the first of the three elements of Empowerment. 

The second element is authority. In order to be empowered, an individual needs not just to have a sense of buy-in but to have the authority to get something done.

And again, I mean something very specific by that. I mean the ability to initiate and manage the getting of it done.

So if you decide you want every car in the car park washed on a Friday morning, if you’re going to try to empower people to do that, the first thing they’ve got to do is buy in – they understand that you want to do that, and they assent to doing it, and secondly, they’ve got the ability to, the authority to initiate and manage that happening. 

And the third thing that you need for Empowerment is agency, and what I mean by that again, very specifically is that they have the skills and resources to do it.

When you combine those three things (buy-in, authority and agency), stuff gets done because people are empowered. 

They understand and assent (buy in), they have the authority to initiate and manage the activity itself – that’s authority – and finally they have agency- the skills and the resources to go get every car in the car park washed on Friday morning. 

Obviously I’m taking a ridiculous example there, but you see the point.

Now what I want to suggest to you, is that although it’s ideal to have all three together. It’s not always necessary. We don’t ALWAYS need people to be fully empowered.

There are sometimes (and I’m going to talk about them in a future video) when we just want people to DO stuff, you know, just go ahead and use their skills and resources to do the thing, and it doesn’t actually really matter whether they’re bought into it or not.

There are times you need to just get stuff done and it doesn’t matter whether somebody’s technically got the authority or not – we just need it done. And so on and so forth.

Each of these elements shift, and if you have an initiative that’s stalled I guarantee you that at it’s heart you have an imbalance somewhere in this particular triad of elements.

So for today’s video – like I said, I’m going to go into each of these in detail in three subsequent videos: we’ll go into buy-in in detail in the next one, then authority, and then agency – but for today, I would just like you to sit back and list out, say the top three initiatives that you’re just not getting the juice from that you’d hoped by the stage in the year, and look at this perspective, and try to identify whether or not you are under- or over- emphasizing one or more of these elements.

Are you trying too hard to achieve buy-in at the expense of ensuring people have the agency (the skills and resources) to get things done, or do people have a lot of skills and resources but they don’t have the authority to make it happen?

Do they have the authority to make it happen, but don’t have the buy-in?

I’ll show you how to rectify each of those in future videos. But for today just run this profile on your stalled initiatives.

So take a moment and drop your comments on the page below.

I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the role of buy-in, agency and authority, and getting empowerment in your organization.

And finally if you feel it would be a value to you to be part of a really powerful Mastermind Group that helps you raise issues like this and get good quality feedback from peers just like you, then click the link on this page and come find out about our Predictable Success Mastermind Group – who knows, it might be right for you!

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