The Two Best Tools for Gaining Team and Client Buy-In

stakeholder management Apr 04, 2021

Whether you have a predictive or agile project, you will always need to have the team on the same page and satisfy the client.  Today, we're going to look at the two best ways to get team and client buy in.  Involvement and clarity are two of the best ways to obtain buy-in.

Involvement: The #1 Tool for Buy-in

Let's suppose you developed a course.  If you were asked to approve the course, you would be very likely to, wouldn't you? On the other hand, if someone told you to develop the course in a certain way, using a certain number of slides and specifying other parameters, you might have a more difficult time. You had less freedom and involvement in creating the course.  We can extend this logic to getting team and client buy in. Involvement in project work is one of the most critical tools for getting buy in.

Involve the Team in Planning

Early on, the team may be involved in creating a team operating agreement. This document helps the team to learn how to work better together before they actually begin the work of the project. The work breakdown structure is another team building exercise. Rather than make unilateral decisions or plans, the project manager should share responsibility with the team. The project manager facilitates WBS creation, but it is the team that actually creates it.

And when it is time to organize the plans after estimating the work, the team should participate in that activity as well. By allowing the team to participate in creating their own future, they're more likely to buy into the plans and the intended direction of the work. There may be some resistance and that's caused by other reasons, and where we may need additional tools.

Involvement is Important for Clients Too

Involvement is also an excellent tool for client buy in, particularly for the project result. As the team builds the work breakdown structure, share some of the details with the client and invite the client to specify the acceptance criteria. Once the plan is completed, let the client review key aspects of the plan to show that your team is honoring their requirements for end dates and budgets. And finally, conduct some of the acceptance tests with the involvement of the client as at least an observer.  When it comes time to ask them to sign off on the project, it should be easy to get if no major quality issues were discovered. Even with quality issues, you can make the necessary corrections and again invite the client to participate in testing and review the results. We'll look at handling the end of the project in the last modules of this course.

Clarity: The #2 Tool for Buy-in

In cases where involvement may not be sufficient to get buy in, the next most important tool is clarity. Find out what is lacking in clarity and shine a light on it. Clarity, combined with involvement is a winning combination!

Clarity for the Team

For the team, make sure they are clear on their purpose. What is it they are expected to accomplish? Roles and responsibilities of the team members also need to be clear. And then the actual plans need to be clear. If a team is not buying into a plan, and they were involved in creating it, be sure the roles and responsibilities of all the tasks are clear, and that all the work that needs to be accomplished is clear.

Clarity for the Client

For the client, key messages about the project delivered consistently will achieve clarity. Whenever new decisions need to be made or changes need to be made to the plans, be sure to provide the rationale and be straightforward about impacts. Communicate them clearly. Be sure clarity of the expected outcomes is shared between the client and the team. With these two tools, buy in is nearly assured.

And of course there will always be some potential exceptions. When exceptions occur, and the team or client isn't buying in as expected, be sure to consider if you are correctly involving people in the work and providing clarity.  Be a good listener, determine what the objectives are, and then be prepared to collaborate to make some changes, or at least a reasonable compromise. Correctly using these techniques will assure team and client by him.

Today's post is based on a lesson from Accidental Project Manager: The Online Experience, a Project Hero Academy course.  Want to find out if the Academy is for you and learn more about project management?  Visit to apply for free admission.

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