How to use a decision matrix to generate buy-in on your ideas

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Anyone working within a team has probably had an experience where their brilliant idea was shut down by powers that be. Even in cases where there is initial traction, the idea might still get killed down the road when one of the critical stakeholders is not on board. So what can you do about it? How can we ensure our ideas get proper consideration and potential roadblocks are addressed? Using a structured approach to evaluating your idea against alternatives (like a decision matrix), combined with the involvement of these stakeholders in the evaluation process can help resolve these issues.  Here are some concrete steps you can use to ensure your idea does not get derailed.

Articulate the Merits of the Idea Itself

In this first part of the process, we will talk about what you can do on your own to make sure the idea is well-defined and its merits are understandable.

1. Understand what matters  to your stakeholders – identify the decision criteria

If you are going to bring others on board, you will need to identify some reasons why your idea is worth pursuing. Understanding what matters to your stakeholders and how your idea makes things better for them is the first step. Basically, you need to answer the question: what do your stakeholders consider when making the decision on whether to pursue your idea? Enumerate those considerations and write them down – they become your criteria.

2. Articulate other courses of action – identify your alternatives

When you have an understanding of your considerations, you need to articulate what other alternatives can be pursued. The easiest alternative is generally the status quo – not doing anything at all. At the very least you want to compare your idea to this status quo. Ideally, however, you want to identify a number of feasible alternatives.

3. Use an objective process like a decision matrix to evaluate your idea against that criteria

Finally, you can understand how your idea, along with the rest of the alternatives, satisfies your set of criteria. You can use a spreadsheet or rationalize app to objectively evaluate the merits of your idea using a decision matrix approach.

For a more thorough explanation of the decision matrix (also known as MCDA and grid analysis) see this post. If you want to see a decision matrix in action – check out our sample dashboard.

Understand How Others Think

Now when the idea is well-defined, we can bring the stakeholders you need along for the journey to ensure their concerns are understood and addressed.

4. Solicit input

Whether or not your stakeholder has the relevant expertise, involving them in the decision-making process provides them with a sense of investment and ownership of the ideas presented. They will be more likely to take the time to understand the ideas being evaluated because the decision matrix approach breaks the decision down into smaller components (the criteria). You can use Rationalize application to quickly and easily solicit input from your stakeholders and, subsequently, analyze the results.

To understand more about the dynamics of soliciting an input, read our article on that.

5. Understand points of resistance

Understanding the points of resistance is the critical part of ensuring your idea gets a buy-in. A single influential stakeholder can tank the opportunity, so it is crucial to make sure you understand where those points of resistance are. You can use the standard deviation between the responses to understand the agreement of individuals within a group. Identifying the points of disagreement and digging further into them can yield great insights about who can blow up your initiative and for what reason. Rationalize provides those capabilities built into the application.

Uncertainty can be a great source of resistance to ideas. Read about how to reduce uncertainty in decision-making.

6. Solicit and incorporate feedback

Once you have a decent understanding of where the potential barriers are you can have conversations with those individuals and make sure their concerns are addressed. For example, if you determine that an individual X has reservations about your idea because they scored it low on a couple of criteria, you can address their concerns by explaining how exactly your idea actually does satisfy the criteria. Alternatively, you can modify your idea in order to accommodate those concerns and bring that individual on board.

Summing it up

Ensuring the relevant stakeholders are bought in is often crucial to ensuring ideas are adopted within groups of people or organizations. Using a rational evaluation approach like a decision matrix to break down the merits of the opportunity and assess the alternatives can help outline the merits of the opportunity. Furthermore, involving these stakeholders in the decision-making process to understand their concerns and reservations can help you pre-emptively address any hidden roadblocks you might encounter when trying to champion the idea within the organization.

Finally, using purpose-built tools for solicitation of input from your stakeholders can help drive legitimacy and credibility needed to ensure you generate a buy-in. Rationalize is a tool built for exactly these types of use-cases.

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