If you are a Change Agent working on transformational change you are likely confronted daily with the reality of having too much to do with too few resources. You aren't alone. In our almost 30 years of change management consulting, we have never come across an organization with too many resources and with too little to do. That has never been more true than it is today.
Given this reality, the question becomes one of prioritization. Where should you focus your time and efforts? How can you keep from falling into the quagmire of being very, very busy but not having the impact on the implementation of transformational change that is really needed.
It's just so easy to get distracted and find yourself spending way too much time on low-yield activities. Therefore, here are two questions that should be your focus every day.
Question 1: What Are You Doing to Build Sponsorship?
It may sound like a "broken record" but there is a a reason why we put so much emphasis on the need for Change Agents to continually work with the Sponsors of transformational change! Our change management consulting client work has demonstrated time and time again that if you don't have Sponsorship, you will have no transformational change.
If, as we have learned, 30-50% of the transformation's success is dependent on Sponsorship, then you have to have persistent, dogged focus on contracting with Sponsors on the actions you need from them. If you have limited time, and too few resources, you just can't take your attention away from "generating Sponsorship."
So practically speaking, what should you specifically do?
1. Build a key role map to visually depict every area of the organization impacted by the change. You should build the key role map from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. When you do this (and yes, it takes time to do it) you will be able to visualize where you need Reinforcing Sponsors and Change Agents.
2. Educate, don't assume. While leaders go through a myriad of leadership development programs over their careers, very few have had training about the role of leaders as Sponsors of change. Leaders will make their own assumptions that their direct reports understand what is required in terms of Sponsorship, but we know from decades of change management consulting that this assumption is rarely accurate.
If you can combine the "education" with "measurement" using the Sponsor Assessment tool you'll be more likely to get the attention of these Sponsors. But the education also has to be married with reinforcement and specific role descriptions. Leaders are like anyone else, and they do what they are reinforced to do.
So if their own reinforcements remain the same, the transformation will likely stall out or fail.
3. Search for common goals and inter-dependence for all key Sponsors. One of the biggest challenges for Change Agents working on transformational change is how to "line up" all the Sponsors and make sure that there are no "black holes" caused by a Sponsor who fails to demonstrate his or her personal commitment to the change. The way to address this challenge is to have common goals and forced inter-dependence amongst the Sponsors.
This means that each Sponsor has both personal and joint goals in relation to the transformation. So, for example, if your organization is working on a Shared Services implementation, the Sponsors are linked together by a common, reinforced goal that says that the implementation of Shared Services in that Sponsor's chain of command is only part of the measure. The other measure is based on the joint success of the implementation. Sponsors A, B, and C are only considered "successful" if each individually, and collectively, are successful.
Question 2: How Are Reinforcements Aligned with the Transformation?
In the next article, we'll take a deeper look into the critical area of applying reinforcements for Targets to drive adoption of the transformational change.