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.
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!
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?
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).
We say that “Sponsorship” is the most critical success factor in ensuring a fast and successful implementation of any type of business change. But as a Change Agent, do you know who your Sponsors actually are, and maybe more importantly, what they are doing to ensure the success of your change project? These are critically important questions, but their answers may not necessarily be all that obvious.
“My Sponsor doesn’t care about Change Management.” No surprise. If you want to connect with people, you have to speak their language, not yours. If you go to France, the best option is to speak French. Going to Italy? It’s a good idea to purchase an Italian dictionary. That’s why Don Harrison, founder of the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM) Change Management Methodology says, “When you go to Sponsorland, you need to speak the language of Sponsors.” It’s why we spend a lot of time practicing Sponsor Contracting in the AIM Accreditation program.