It’s commonly noted that 70% of change transformation efforts fail. There are several factors that contribute to this statistic, with one very big one being the propensity for companies to underestimate the importance of, and underinvest in, caring for the people side of change. Resistance to change is human nature. Yet, change is necessary for organizations to grow, adapt to new conditions, take advantage of strategic opportunities, and thrive for the long term. As companies embark upon transformational change, there are several key change agent roles necessary to ensure successful implementation and sustainment. Below, we explore the key roles for sustainable change management.
Key Roles for Sustainable Change Management
Sponsors are leaders who have decision authority to approve the initiative and assign the necessary resources to get it done. Signing off on the budget and charter is just the beginning of the sponsor’s role in the change effort. When a sponsor is active and visible throughout the change, the rest of the organization is more likely to believe the change is here to stay and not just a “flash in the pan” initiative that will fizzle out. Particularly, sponsors who are trusted leaders can help employees take a bit more of a leap of faith and believe the initiative or direction is the right thing for the company.
Sponsors can demonstrate their commitment through their words and actions. They articulate to the organization over –and over “the why” for the change and how it will help the company be successful in achieving its mission and vision. They also show up to key events, invest precious time with those responsible for the change effort, ensure incentive and strategic alignment across executive teams, and hold senior leaders accountable for their role in supporting the change.
Change Professionals / Leads
Especially for large-scale, transformational change, organizations should assign change professionals who are equipped with the expertise to shepherd the company through the change. Their primary responsibility is to apply structure to the change effort and ensure mindful management of all key stakeholders from program start to completion. They provide direction and discipline for how the organization will ensure successful adoption and sustainment of the transformation.
The best change leaders are credible coaches with an agile mindset who are proactive, perceptive, strategic, and resilient. Change professionals work closely with project managers to ensure strong alignment of sustainable change management processes with the programmatic deliverables and risk management processes.
The program and project managers responsible for planning and driving the initiative are important partners for the change professionals. Project managers have the full view of activities involved and have frequent interaction with the people responsible for implementing the initiatives. Given the cross-functional exposure that project managers have, they can serve as key connectors to ensure all teams and roles are included throughout the change process.
Project managers not only play a key role in ensuring sustainable change management deliverables are included in the plan, but they also can serve as eyes and ears for the change professionals as they participate in a variety of forums for the program. Project managers typically lead the risk management and mitigation processes for the program, and any risks associated with the people side of change should be incorporated and managed with diligence.
Identify people at all levels of the organization who will advocate for the change and help others through the change curve. Change champions are influencers among their peers who believe in, understand, and advocate for the upcoming changes. They do not have to be part of the management chain, but they must see the vision and promote the change from within the organization.
Change champions are trusted, respected, positive, and inspiring motivators. The best change champions are amplifiers who possess strong leadership and followership traits and are true catalysts for change. Change professionals collaborate with change champions in defining change strategies, communicating the change, training team members, role modeling, and problem-solving.
People managers and supervisors are critical to ensuring the change impacts are well understood and action plans are in place to drive success for the teams they lead. Employees are looking to their managers to reinforce the change efforts as a priority and ensure their concerns are heard and managed. Including people managers in the change planning, change impact identification, training strategies, and resource allocation is important for ensuring effective change implementation. Providing managers with consistent messaging for communication of the change rationale and expectations throughout the implementation will support them in leading others through the change curve.
Going Forward with Sustainable Change Management
Collectively, these change agents are critical to driving successful transformational change. Collaborating with these roles proactively and thoughtfully through a structured organizational change management approach will accelerate change adoption and sustainment throughout the organization.
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