While Getting and Giving Information is often about “why” and “how,” Gaining Commitment is about settling “what” and “when.” You need to be thinking about Gaining Commitment from the very beginning of the process; you should be planning your approach as soon as you’ve discovered The One Thing.
Light a Fire Under It
Once you’ve managed to convince your customer on a general goal and course of action, there are a couple of practical steps that both get the project moving ahead, and get executives and stakeholders actively engaged in its success:
Setting up a timetable for the process leading up to the actual launch of the project itself accomplishes a subtle, but powerful effect. By putting real dates and goals in writing, you add a sense of urgency for both learning leaders and management. If your deadlines are soft or non-existent, that’s a cue to stakeholders that your project is inessential, and they will prioritize other tasks ahead of it. Again, if your storytelling has done its job, executives should already be excited about your proposed solution, and a concrete timeline only adds to that.
Defining responsibilities and duties keeps everyone engaged in the outcome of a project. You want more than a simple “yes” from management; you want them invested in its success. This means keeping them in the loop and a contributor to actual progress. For instance, you might ask an executive to make an introduction to a peer in another department on behalf of the project, or even enlist their help in seeking funding or resources.
It's easy to worry about heaping too many responsibilities on an executive or partner; the key is to find what they’re comfortable with. It shouldn’t be about forcing anyone to do anything, but to come to an agreement on the next steps. Even asking them to set the time for the next meeting is better than nothing. What you don’t want is to leave it at “we’ll touch base later,” because that’s a quick way to have the project slip from their attention.
A Project in Motion Stays in Motion
The process of gaining a commitment also tends to have the effect of bringing out objections. A customer may keep quiet about their doubts when the discussion is at a high level, but as details are hammered out, those doubts can magnify. This is the time to reassure them that the plan (based on all the information you’ve gotten and given) will succeed. To help smooth over any worries, you might try going over the LMC with the customer again to see where a golden thread may have become broken or missed.
The goal for both the timeline and delegation of responsibilities is to keep momentum behind the learning project. You want your project to advance continuously, even if only in small increments. As I mentioned before, while it’s great if management greenlights and funds your Total project, getting a go ahead for a Phased or Test project is still progress, and gives you opportunities to Get and Give Information for the future.
Each of the 3G’s (and the process of gaining buy-in as a whole) is an art, not a science. It takes practice to learn the right data to collect for the right customer, the right narrative to put forward, and the right approach to come to an agreement. I’ve introduced the 3G’s linearly, but in truth, there will be times when, to move a project forward, you will do them concurrently, piece-meal, or out of order. Uncovering objections is, in itself, Getting Information. Gaining Commitment isn’t just a one-time step at the closing of a deal, you will likely need to Gain Commitment from management throughout the process just to reach the next step.
In whatever order you end up employing them, learning to employ the 3G’s effectively will empower you to sell L&D, getting you the resources you need to carry out your mission. If you want to sell your business on learning, be prepared to learn how to sell. If you want to hear more about Gaining Commitment for your project, or any of the 3G's, drop me a line or leave a comment below.
Make sure to put everything—timelines, responsibilities, commitments—in writing. While connecting in person to Gain Commitment is preferable, don’t let that be the only contact you have with the customer. Details of a conversation, or entire conversations, can be forgotten or confused. A written reminder of agreed upon obligations can clear up misunderstandings, and keep stakeholders engaged in the project.