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.
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!
You’ve heard it time and time again: Project Sponsorship is the most critical success factor in ensuring a fast and successful implementation of any type of business change. But Sponsorship is not just one executive leader who signs the check and authorizes the launch of an initiative. It’s also not a steering committee of key leaders tasked with making strategic decisions along the way.
If you are a Next Generation Change Agent, you know what your #1 priority is. It’s not about spending precious time filling out templates and checklists. It’s not about a useless effort trying to eliminate (instead of manage) resistance. And it’s not about communication messages that try to convince Targets that this change will be good for them. For a Next Generation Change Agent, that’s missing the boat!
Forbes Magazine recently published an online article, “15 Change Management Mistakes You're Probably Making” written by the Forbes Coaches Council. The article lists their take on the most common mistakes made by leaders and their insights on how to avoid them.
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!?
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.
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.