A key element in the implementation of change in an organization is to have a change sponsor. This role has the responsibilities of legitimizing the change across the organization and of promoting its acceptance, by being himself an example for others. The role of the sponsor is crucial in the success of the implementation of change, hence it is important that the sponsor effectively fulfill his role. Yet, the leaders selected to be sponsors do not all systematically have experience in such a role, and often ask themselves where to begin.
This article presents an approach in 4 steps to support a leader in the ownership of his role as a change sponsor.
1) Identifying the Strengths of the Sponsor
We often approach situations in ways with which we feel comfortable or competent; some determine the facts or establish a structure, whereas others dive headfirst into exploration or rely on their networks. When we accompany a leader in the ownership of his role as a sponsor, it is important to have a discussion with him to learn about his strengths and comfort zone before proposing different actions to him based on the best practices. In order to do this, we can ask him to fill out a short questionnaire or to give us examples of actions that he has already taken at the moment. By identifying the strengths of the leader, it is easier for the person accompanying him to propose actions that will be positively tailored to the leader and with which he will feel comfortable with starting. It is important to respect the rhythm of the leader, without which actions won’t be realized.
2) Co-Creating the Actions That Will Have an Impact
During the implementation of a change, it is well known among the best practices that the change sponsor must communicate the vision of the project, be visible and accessible at all times, and demonstrate a sustained engagement towards the change. However, it is not sufficient for a sponsor just to communicate often or to wander the corridors for his engagement as a leader to be credible. It is important that the actions of the leader be perceived as authentic, and that people feel that the leader truly wishes to engage with the people, without which resistance could emerge. By relying on the strengths of the leader and taking into account the context of the organization and best practices, it is possible to create a list of actions to be realized by the sponsor which will have a real impact on the organization. When this exercise is carried out (often in the form of a workshop), the involvement of the change management team is necessary in order to build a coherent change management strategy. The sponsor who participates in creating the list of actions has then already begun to assume his role. This contributes to accentuating his engagement in the realization of actions, and thus ensures a positive impact on the people.
3) Developing a Plan of Action for Implementation
Now that the sponsor is fully committed to fulfilling his role, it is important to create a concrete plan of action with him to ensure the proper execution of the actions that were identified earlier. Connecting with the change management plan is essential and also necessitates the involvement of the change management team. This step can be jointly realized with step 2, namely at the core of the same workshop with the sponsor and the change management team.
4) Evaluating Impacts of the Actions
It is important to carry out a follow-up on the actions realized by the sponsor, for example by analyzing the results of surveys distributed to employees, or by asking for informal feedback, in order to adjust tactics if the anticipated results are not reached. Reorganizing the plan of action or identifying new actions may be necessary.
This approach contributes to two important things for the implementation of change in the organization:
1) to bring out a real commitment from the sponsor to fulfill his role and the capacity to fulfill it;
2) to transfer an approach to the sponsor that he could use with his team to sustain commitment to the project.