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How to Build up Buy-in for Your Competitive Intelligence Incrementally

When you’re trying to gain acceptance within your organization for the reality of a situation, revealed by competitive intelligence, one approach is to gather support gradually until you have enough backing and enough steam to blast through the barriers of any internal resistance.

The role of the CI team is to help leadership understand the facts and appreciate the urgency of taking action so that leadership can formulate and implement a response. Although you can present a range of options, the final decisions are ultimately in the hands of your organization’s leaders.

Here’s an incremental method for overcoming inertia in a bureaucracy that has worked in many companies:

  1. Consider who in the organization has impact and categorize them based on the five personalities of change so you know who your allies and adversaries are.

    Your CI support network should already be populated with several allies.

  2. Start to familiarize pathfinders, listeners, and perhaps very few organizer personalities with the intel through a series of briefings or orientation meetings.

    Familiarizing a small group of CI supporters with the intel helps ensure that you’re on the right track before you decide to move the intel up the ladder. If you can’t convince your supporters of the importance or urgency of the intel, then the intel probably isn’t strong enough to convince your organization’s decision makers.

    Don’t include followers or diehards at this stage of the process. You may want to set up your briefings offsite and after working hours so these folks don’t get a whiff of what’s going on.

  3. Continue reaching out to pathfinders, listeners, and a few organizers until you have buy-in from 25 percent of the people in your organization.

    Research indicates that somewhere between 10 and 25 percent acceptance creates enough momentum to carry a change through an organization; 25 percent acceptance is the point of no defeat.

    Never pitch your intel with a Monday morning announcement. Such actions only serve to motivate any dissenters to dig in their heels. Calls for change often trigger knee-jerk reactions against it.

According to the Ansoff power formula of P >> R, the power (P) you apply must significantly exceed the resistance (R) you encounter. Power comes in the form of status (power from sponsors who hold higher positions in the organization) and numbers (the number of people who buy into the intel and the need for a response).

If the resistance to the intel or its urgency is extremely high, no effort may be sufficient in overcoming it. This isn’t necessarily a defeat for the CI team. Sometimes the CI team is wrong, and sometimes it’s through no fault of its own. The CEO or others in the executive suite may have rock-solid information that you simply don’t have access to.

Never forget that your job is to provide the most accurate and insightful information you can. Sometimes, you may not even be given all the information available . . . on purpose!

How to conduct an informal poll to gather competitive intelligence support

Taking a poll is a great way to get a feel for how receptive people are likely to be to intel and the need for a response without hitting them with the full force of it. In an informal way, approach all the people in the organization who can support your efforts and ask them the following questions:

  • How important (or unimportant) is the information?

  • Do you think our conclusions are accurate, based on your knowledge?

  • What misgivings or questions do you have about the conclusions?

  • What level of support for this conclusion would you expect to receive from decision makers in the organization?

  • Where (or from whom) would you expect to encounter resistance to this intel and the need for a response?

  • Do you have any suggestions on how to present the intel to overcome any resistance to it?

How to take trips into the organization to gather competitive intelligence support

According to one study about managers who were consistently successful in pushing through new initiatives, the managers took little trips out of their office and into the organization.

They would carefully choose a few people to introduce the idea to and then give them time to process it. Then the managers would make another trip and talk with a few more people. They would repeat their impromptu meetings until they felt they’d developed critical mass for initiating the proposed change (around 25 percent buy-in).

To increase receptivity for your intel in your own organization, take a few “trips” to different areas of the organization that are likely to be on the front lines of implementing any required changes. Start with people you know you can trust to keep the information confidential.

Assuming that your informal poll involved a limited number of highly trusted associates, you’re now ready to broaden your evaluation of attitudes. In this case, you probably want to visit with the entire CI support network.

Although you’re gathering valuable information and insight on how to present your intel and the need for a response, you’re also warming people up to the information and its implications.

How to interview middle managers to gather competitive intelligence support

Sometimes you get a better feel for how an organization will respond by interviewing middle managers. Frequently, middle managers are caught between the desires of customers and the directives of upper management, so they can provide more insight into how your intelligence will be received. Ask the same questions you asked during your informal poll.

How to determine the intensity of resistance to competitive intelligence

After you complete your internal investigation, summarize the input you received from all the different interest groups. Put all the different opinions together and develop a solid understanding of the resistance you should expect to encounter. You can then formulate a strategy for moving forward based on the intensity of that resistance.

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