According to the latest (2012) Best Practices Report by Prosci, the world’s leading research body into Change Management, active and visible sponsorship is the number one predictor of success with corporate change, whilst conversely, its absence is unfortunately also the number one predictor of failure.
Whether re-structuring, facing a merger, installing an enterprise-wide technology, entering a re-branding phase or any other of the myriad of corporate change scenarios, are you, the executive leader, setting it up for success to realise the intended benefits such as increased revenues, decreased costs, quicker inventory turnover and more functionality?
To do so, executive roles encompass two broad areas:
• Executive decisions
• Executive actions
Executive decisions are what executives feel comfortable with, passing on decisions about strategy, resourcing and dates and timing. The greatest challenge though is for executives to understand their role must continue beyond this, into executive actions. Executive actions include:
• Active and visible participation
• Direct communications
• Coalition Building
An executive is the ambassador of the change, and whether he likes it or not, all are watching to ascertain the belief level from the top, and the real reason for the change. Ask yourself – do I walk the talk consistently and regularly, do I represent the good that will come from the change on a consistent basis, and ultimately do I personify the change?
People will jump on the ‘change bus’ if they believe that the change will take them to a hopeful future. This basically means that they understand the reasons for the need to change and the consequences of not changing. This message needs to be delivered by the executive sponsor of the change as the ‘face’ of the change, and from this they will determine the level of yearning.
Through receiving this ‘business-case’ message in a myriad of formats from the top, they will then, and only then, be willing to work with their direct manager in finding ways to make the change a reality ‘on the ground’. Just as change is not an activity but rather a process, so too is the all-important ongoing and structured communication. This simply cannot be overlooked and whilst a change manager would be supporting an executive with this duty, these messages can only be delivered by the executive sponsor. Ask yourself – what messages am I sending, when and in what formats? How is my communication helping or hindering the change process?
Coalitions are forces coming together that add strength and value. With most, but not all, corporate change being enterprise-wide, an executive sponsor must build and nourish his team of change comrades, ensuring he has those that will facilitate the way forward. They will constantly represent the executive sponsor’s message, mirror the future at all times, allowing the sponsor to perform other duties. Ask yourself – who are my change coalition and how does their approach and competency assist the new future state? What would be the effect without each individual one?
With the 2012 Prosci research indicating that 50 per cent of executive sponsors were ranked as having only a moderate to low understanding of their role as change ambassadors, ask yourself one last question: what needs to change for me and my organisation in order to fulfill my roles of both executive decisions and executive activities, thereby facilitating reduced impact from negative consequences of change?