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!?
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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.
We’ve been talking a lot about Next Generation Change Management, and why it’s so critical for Change Agents to focus on impact not activity. A good starting point for Agents and their Sponsors is to have an agreed upon definition of implementation roles and responsibilities. Don Harrison, developer of the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM), describes the four roles as a CAST of characters: Champions, Agents, Sponsors and Targets.
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One of the most common questions we get in our change management consulting is how to overcome resistance to change. Our clients look a little frustrated when we tell them, “you can’t.” But it’s true. It doesn’t matter if a change is perceived as negative or positive, if it is transformational in scope or a small procedural one, resistance is going to occur. And the fact of the matter is, you can’t combat it, solve it or overcome it. Instead, resistance needs to be surfaced, understood and then managed.
We’ve all seen them. Projects that are being governed by a Steering Committee that is nowhere near as effective as it could be. Or Project Teams that aren’t made up of the right kind of resources causing a project to slow down to a crawl or even stall out completely. As experts in Change Management, we know Steering Committees and Project Teams who don’t work well together can be a fatal flaw in any change initiative.
One of the most significant questions organizations face in implementing a change is how many resources will we need to implement? And following this, where will we need them? The Who’s Who of a change implementation can be complicated. Who are the Sponsors and who are the Targets? Are the Sponsors Authorizing Sponsors or Reinforcing Sponsors? Are they all located in one department or are they scattered throughout the organization?
Have you ever walked away from a discussion with a Sponsor feeling like you didn’t get exactly what you had hoped for? Have you had a Sponsor gladly offer “support” but then that very same Sponsor is unwilling to commit personal time for the project when it’s really needed? It’s a common Change Agent challenge!
We’ve all experienced it. The quiet whispers in the break room; the angry outbursts in a team meeting; the under the breath mutterings in the hallways. Phrases like, “This is never going to work.” Or, “I’m not changing the way I’ve done my job for the last umpteen years.” Or one of our all-time favorites, “We tried this years ago, and it didn’t work.” Change Agents and Sponsors face these and many other forms of resistance on a daily basis.
One of the greatest challenges of implementing large-scale, complex change is that very often you will be confronted with multiple Sponsors. They all bring their own visions, political agendas, and "Frames of Reference" to the change. Some are stronger than others. How many of these scenarios sound familiar?