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 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.
Transformational change is excruciatingly complex. These big changes can’t be done incrementally, and can’t be made totally safe. Once you make the leap, you can’t change your mind and go back to the old ways of doing things if it’s not going well! People, processes and technology will all be impacted. Simply put, your organization will be doing different things in completely different ways.
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!
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?
If your managers think they know everything about resistance to change… they might well need to think again. In our 30+ years of Change Management Project Work, we’ve seen many implementation projects where leaders say they understand resistance is a natural part of the change process, but are still taken by surprise when they actually start to experience it. Especially if the leaders view the change as an upgrade or improvement!
In the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM) change management methodology, developer Don Harrison defines 4 crucial implementation roles as a CAST of Characters. Sponsors are defined as those who authorize, legitimize and/or demonstrate ownership for the change (Authorizing Sponsors) or reinforce the change at the local level (Reinforcing Sponsors).
One of the critical elements for achieving implementation success on a transformational change is knowing what the climate is like for the change you are trying to introduce. Your project isn't being introduced into a hermetically-sealed environment. Instead, you are implementing your change into an environment that is being significantly shaped by perceptions of past experiences, and what is going on in the present. That’s an important AIM change management methodology principle: No change occurs in isolation. It occurs in the context of all those priorities competing for resources (stress) and all the lessons previously learned about implementation (history).
Here’s the reality: Many project teams are focused solely on time and budget and the technical project milestones. All good, but that just will get the team to “installation!” The team is off and running, but if the end-goal is, as it should be, business realization (also known as value realization, ROI, or benefit realization) the project is sure to fall short in the end in achieving sustained change and long-term business results.