Year after year, benchmarking studies indicate visible and active sponsorship is the largest contributing factor as to whether or not organisational change succeeds. So it’s concerning that many senior stakeholders don’t fully appreciate the part they play in bringing change to life.
Too often, the sponsors of organisational change act like seagulls, swooping in from time to time, squawking at everything that moves before leaving a trail of destruction in their wake that somebody else has to clean up!
Here are some practical steps sponsors can take to not only make change happen but to make it stick:
1. Be a consistent and visible participant
Kick-ass sponsors lead by “doing”. You need these three things: consistency, visibility, participation.
Consistency: Start the way you intend to finish. Because newsflash – people will notice the gaps between what you say and what you do. During the project planning and start-up phase, a sponsor should acquire the right resources, provide clear direction by setting clear objectives and free up the necessary funding for the team.
Visibility: Don’t do a David Copperfield after the initial kick-off meeting. Roll up your sleeves and develop a rapport with the change team. And not just at milestones and progress updates. Your sustained presence is required to develop an urgency for organisational change and harness enough momentum to disrupt the status quo. Eyes are on you for direction and commitment.
Participation: Change is hard. We’re human. Don’t underestimate the impact a seemingly small gesture has on the team’s enthusiasm: celebrate success stories, acknowledge achievements, provide constructive criticism – in person.
2. Open doors and develop a web of change advocates
Any change manager knows it’s an uphill battle and that the hill can get pretty darn steep at times. Sponsors, do yourselves a favour. Use your influence and network to secure support for the future state throughout the business. You’re a sponsor for a reason – you have the ability to connect with leaders in other impacted areas to pave the way for change to occur.
Your change manager should raise areas of resistance or concern. Use your organisational context and knowledge to mitigate and/or eliminate these. Your change advocate network provides added swaying power.
Sponsors should be steering committee meetings and leveraging this forum to reinforce leadership support, update influential stakeholders and hold managers accountable for delivering on their commitments.
3. Nothing beats hearing it direct from the source
Employees want to hear from you! Share the vision for the future, why the organisational change is important and the risks of not changing. Messages regarding how change impacts an employee personally are most effective when delivered by the employee’s direct supervisor or manager.
The role most sponsors struggle with is the last one – direct communication. Take regular pulse checks of the organisation through public and private conversations, feed this back to the team.
They’re there to help you. Their success is your success.
And doing so will continuously improve how change is managed, allowing your change manager to fine tune change activities for maximum impact. When you’re being bombarded with tough questions, be open so the team can aid you in developing a coordinated and effective response.