When most people think about change management, they automatically assume preparing targets is the most important activity a Change Agent should be doing. But we all know you should never assume (and we all know why, too!) The fact is, having visible and active Sponsors at all levels of the organization who are actively demonstrating their commitment to a change, both publicly and privately, is the most important factor in a fast and successful implementation.
Whether it is digital transformation, continuous improvement initiatives such as Lean Six Sigma, culture change or a shared services implementation, the success of any change project depends on the demonstrated Expressed, Modeled and Reinforced commitment of all the managers and leaders who have direct reports that are impacted in some way by the change. This cascade of behavioral Sponsor commitment is the single most important factor in a fast and successful implementation.
Like so many of you who read our blog on a weekly basis, IMA is facing a major change. As you may already know our Vice President of Client Solutions, Paula Alsher, retired at the end of 2018. A bittersweet time for us as we are thrilled to hear Paula is already enjoying a peaceful and relaxing retirement, but a challenging transition for our small company as she did so much for us on a day-to-day basis.
Don Harrison, the developer of the AIM Change Management Methodology, has spent his 40+ year career working with global organizations on how to implement complex change. He specializes in delivering tough messages to senior executives on their role as Sponsors. Not an easy task!
The rate of change in today’s business world is certainly at an all-time high. Everyone we know is racing around at a crazy, fast pace trying to implement multiple initiatives all of which are chasing the same limited resources. This nonstop, whirlwind of activity often makes an organization seem like it’s functioning like a well-oiled machine. (After all if everyone is busy, change management must be happening, right?) But, have you ever stopped to ask yourself what exactly everyone is doing? Are they just spinning their wheels with activity or are they making an actual impact with their actions?
One of the key principles of organizational change management is that implementation takes place at the local level. No matter how good your project team is, you still need a skilled cadre of Change Agents to actually implement your change. The success of your project depends on having the right Agents with the right skills, traits and characteristics working with Sponsors and Targets in an established change structure. What’s more, the type of Agent you need at the beginning of the project will be different from the type of Agent you need in future phases—see our Mini Guide to Installation vs. Implementation for details.
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.
Have you ever been in a meeting, talking about change management with an important Sponsor, and slowly watch his or her eyes glaze over? Or how about, when you are telling your Sponsor all about the Reinforcement Strategy, Resistance Management and Key Role Map you’ve put together and they suddenly appear antsy and announce they need to move on to their next meeting. Frustrating, right!?
Watch This Quick Video Recap:
A program director from a global industry leader made this somewhat startling admission in a recent call with IMA President Don Harrison: at least 80% of their change projects fail to fully achieve value realization. This really got us thinking about the challenge for Change Agents, and not just at this organization. Where do you start to make a difference when you may not be in a position of organizational power?
One of the key principles of Next Generation Change Management is to look up the power structure in your organization before you look down, especially in the beginning of a project. What we mean by this is as a Change Agent, you need to spend more time working with your Sponsors (to ensure they are Expressing, Modeling and Reinforcing the change) than trying to convince the targets (those people who will be affected by the change) about the logic and rationale behind it.