The world in which we live in today compels us to keep changing: always improving our systems, our processes, our services, creating more performing and time efficient procedures, while keeping both our clients and our employees at the heart of it all. Why? Well, to stay on top of the super competitive market! Nowadays, we can’t afford to just sit back and do what we’ve been doing for the past decade.
I’ve been in the change management and transformation business for a couple of years now. And whatever the sector, there’s always one thing in common: change, in whatever field, industry or market you’re in, isn’t easy! Just think about all the changes you’ve been through in your personal life: it never really felt comfortable at first. It generally takes courage, guts and risk taking- something many of us don’t feel at ease with. It also requires so many aspects of a company and various people to come together to make it work that sometimes it just feels like an impossible mountain to overcome!
The cruciality of that one element
There are many steps required to build up to a successful change management initiative such as building a change management team, having a clear communication plan in place, and so on. Today I want to focus on one element that will bring failure to all of your change management initiatives: lack of sponsorship!
What’s sponsorship to start with? It’s that special group of key people in your company who’s buy in to your idea is crucial. They’re your CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, CMOs, directors, key managers who will be convincing their teams that the initiative is a good idea. They’re the ones who will be reminding those resistant to change that the initiative is an improvement and specially those who will be leading by example being a great help in the adoption phase. John Maxwell, the guru of leadership, would agree as one of his leadership principles are “Followers are always watching what leaders do”. If leaders are not adopting the new change initiatives, why would their peers do so?
Get your leaders on board
What would happen if you lack sponsorship to your change initiative? I think it would be best to illustrate this point with an example of a client I’ve had where the CEO believed in his change initiative to be the way forward. However the decision to start the change process was made unilaterally- without involving his board of directors, his counsellors and peers. The result? No one believed in the initiative, they don’t understand the vision, the mission nor the purpose of making the changes suggested. Despite a solid project management and change management program in place, the change transformation initiative has failed. Why? Because when adoption was crucial, the leaders weren’t on board. They were leading with the counterexample, building up even more resistance to change.
Lack of sponsorship will make your change management initiative fail. If you want your change initiative to work, you’ll need as much sponsorship as possible involving these key people early in the process to get their buy-in quickly.