Last week our blog article, “15 Common Mistakes Made by Leadership During a Change -- and What to Do About Them” examined the most common mistakes made by leadership during a change. But, Sponsors are not the only ones who are prone to making errors. Change Agents, who are ultimately responsible for an implementation, can also make some very damaging mistakes along the way.
In the AIM Change Management Methodology, Change Agents are defined as being accountable for a change from planning through execution. At least part of their performance evaluation must be based on the success of the implementation. The actions of Change Agents must be laser focused on making an impact on business results. So, needless to say when Change Agents are making mistakes, value realization is at risk.
Top 5 Change Agent Mistakes
Here’s our list of the top 5 mistakes being made by Change Agents along with a few thoughts on how to help this crucial AIM CAST Member be successful in their role.
- Looking Down the Organization, Not Up
One of the biggest mistakes we see is when Change Agents spend the bulk of their time looking down the organization at the Targets of the change rather than up the organization at Sponsors. The fact that active Sponsorship represents a factor of 50% or more of the likelihood of implementation success should make abundantly clear the importance of getting a Sponsor to do what is needed. So, instead of trying to convince the Targets of the logic and rationale for a change, Change Agents need to spend the majority of their time working with Sponsors to ensure there is alignment in what they are expressing, modeling and reinforcing with their direct reports.
- Poor Sponsor Contracting
The "secret sauce" in getting Sponsors to do what is needed during a change is a negotiation process we call “Sponsor Contracting.” These meetings are not easy and, in some cases, can be quite intimidating which can often cause Change Agents to take missteps. But, the ability to effectively contract with Sponsors is arguably the most important skill needed by a Change Agent! So much so that Don Harrison, IMA President and developer of the AIM Change Management Methodology says, “All failed transformational change can be traced back to poor Sponsor Contracting.”
- Not Influencing the Right Sponsors
Change Agents are also missing the mark if they think their senior most executive is the most important person to influence. The fact is, there is no one Sponsor who is more important than another. Sponsors only have influence over their direct reports. So, every manager who has a direct report being affected by the change is an important piece of the puzzle. Creating a Key Role Map, a skill we teach in our AIM Accreditation course, will help identify where every Sponsor is within the organization. We witness a lot of “a ha” moments when the participants in our certification class look at their Key Role Map and see just how many Sponsors there really are!
- Mistaking a Communication Plan for an Implementation Plan
There are still a lot of change management practitioners out there who think if they create a schedule of emails, build a website, and post a few messages on their Facebook Page, there will be unanimous buy in and magically everyone will change their behavior. Yes, having a Communication Plan is important, crucial even. But, it is not enough. A Communication Plan is just one piece of a full Implementation Plan that should include at a minimum, a Target Readiness Plan, a Sponsorship Strategy and a Reinforcement Plan.
- “Doing” Change Management
When Change Agents are behind closed doors “doing” change management by filling out checklists and completing templates instead of being out in the organization working with Sponsors and creating Target Readiness they are definitely missing the mark. Change management tools and templates can be helpful, but the goal of change management should never be “to do” a process because change is by no means linear! Instead, core principles should be used as a guide on what to do, given the day-to-day realities and challenges of a project.
Ensuring Change Agents are Successful in Their Role
Making certain you have the appropriate number of Change Agents, in the proper places using their influence for the most amount of impact is a critical component of organizational change management and achieving value realization for your project. Here are a few best practices for ensuring Change Agents are ready for the Next Generation of Change Management:
- Use a common change management framework (like AIM), so there is a universally shared vocabulary across the organization
- Identify and align rewards for Agents
- Invest in Agents' skill development through quality NextGen Change Agent training
- Plan for Agent succession, not if, but when
So, now that you know the mistakes we see Change Agents making and how you can ensure your Change Agents are successful in their role, we ask…what are your Change Agents doing to make an impact on your implementation?