The key to obtaining buy in on your IT project

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When you try to persuade decision makers to take on a new technology, process or system, you almost inevitably come up against a detractor, and sometimes he or she may have real knowledge of the subject at hand. The key to rising above attacks on your proposal is to keep the discussion focused on your own territory, writes John Kotter, an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School, in a post at Harvard Business Review.

You want to remain respectful of everyone involved, but at the same time you need to avoid letting the focus of a conversation move to the detractor and his or her position, Kotter advises. Instead of addressing the point at length in gritty detail, you should address it simply and then quickly move on.  

"Whatever the attack--whether an anecdote, or an obscure data point--odds are that the attacker knows the specifics far better than you," he writes. "A lengthy answer and a few follow-ups on the subject will likely (and unfairly) make you seem uninformed or underprepared, undermining your credibility with your broader audience."

Rather than getting mired in the details of an attacker's argument, you should craft your responses to your entire audience. It's important to observe the audience carefully to see their reactions because one detractor should not necessarily drive the discussion.

"[A]a primary tactic of dissenters is confusion. It is easy to cloud the subject, forget what is truly at stake, and lose the merits of a proposal if you lose focus and shift to someone else's terms," Kotter writes. "Staying focused and staying on message may just help you save your idea."

For more:
- see John Kotter's post at Harvard Business Review

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