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Top-Shelf Tip No. 009:

"Sponsorship can come to you in different ways. You never know who is watching, so be ‘sponsor-ready’ at all times."

Millette Granville

Why Change Needs A Champion Within Organizations

It can be tough to initiate change in an organization. Whether you are rolling out a new process, switching vendors, implementing a new system or developing a new technology or product, it's often difficult to gain momentum for that change—unless you have the right champion.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share tips from Shaaron A. Alvares, senior consultant with Pcubed, for using executive sponsorship, as explained below, to manage change and transformation within your organization.

Alvares says that when changes are initiated within organizations, employees look to senior leaders to learn the reason for the change, the project's objectives and the company's commitment to the change. The executive sponsor is the leader who is willing to take the time to lay out why the initiative is being undertaken, who's involved, how the change will impact the organization, its strategy and impact on employees, why people need to assist or cooperate, and what the benefits are of embracing the change.

The problem with executive sponsorship is that often the executive doesn't fully understand his or her role. It's not enough just to ask employees to do something differently. An announcement coming from the executive sponsor's email is not enough to gain buy-in on changing vendors or getting into new markets.

Instead, executive sponsorship is an opportunity to create a sense of urgency, momentum and commitment, as well as build a coalition of interest and support that aligns key business leaders and stakeholders.

Alvares says that the executive's responsibilities in the change project can be as extensive as the following:

• Scoping out a change plan and identifying change agents within the organization

• Defining a vision for the change and building a consensus on the project's goals

• Carving out a budget assigned to the change management plan

• Supporting the idea of training and development

• Communicating short-term success and quick wins to keep the team focused and the momentum going

• Communicating how this new initiative is important and will be different from any previously failed effort

• Measuring the results and sustaining the change after the project is completed

• Validating the project through internal communications

• "Socializing" the new organization and staff roles by talking them up at appropriate opportunities.

Alvares says there are also common pitfalls made by executive sponsors that include:

• Failure to remain visible and engaged throughout the project

• Failure to demonstrate support for the project in words and actions

• Failure to communicate messages about the need for change and the risks of not changing

• Ignoring the people side of the change

• Delegating the role of sponsorship to project managers

Without executive sponsorship, there can be a significant negative outcome. First, there's lower productivity and passive or active resistance among staff. Employees will show disinterest in the current vision for the company. Shortly thereafter, companies may see turnover among valued people. Those remaining will look for workarounds or revert to old ways of doing things. The change doesn't fully take place, and eventually it's totally scrapped because it becomes an obvious failure.

Executive sponsorship doesn't have to be complicated: It can be as simple as announcing the project, communicating quick wins and broadcasting the success of the initiative as it unfolds. In short, executive sponsorship can be the critical difference in engagement, adoption and return on investment.

Source: Shaaron A. Alvares, MSP®, Prosci®, PMP, PMI-ACP, is senior consultant with Pcubed's Pacific Northwest team in the United States. She has broad international work experience in Europe, Asia and the U.S. Formerly, she was program manager at Amazon.com and Microsoft, and has worked in high-tech, global health, aerospace, higher education and transportation.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson