Change Agent Tip #3: Engage Your Boss – and Their Boss

Jun 12, 2011 4 Comments by

Most significant change initiatives show up on the radar of your organization’s leadership team at some point. The most effective changes are given executive sponsorship attention early in the planning stages. The classic disasters are noticed only when things go wrong. The best Change Agents aggressively verify Sponsorship all the way up the org chart.

Sponsors Provide:

  1. Clear Direction: Demonstrate the strategic rationale for the change.
  2. Decisions: Act as an escalation point for issues and decisions the team can’t resolve.
  3. Communication: Executives shouldn’t send all communications for the change, but an occasional direct message will reinforce stakeholder expectations.
  4. Understanding of the Change Process: Recognize the natural adoption process without condoning a dip in productivity.
  5. Boundaries: Set clear expectations for what stakeholders should do to get ready and when they need to engage.
  6. Resources: Provide people, time and tangible resources to make the change successful.
  7. Attention: Thoroughly understand what’s changing and don’t wait until things get dicey to get involved.
  8. Trust: Great Sponsors don’t take over the change or micromanage it.

For more information on Sponsorship topics, see these posts:

  1. Follow the Leader
  2. Who Would Ever Want to Be King?
  3. Success Factor #1: Alignment
  4. A Question of Sponsorship


Question for Chatter:

  • What effective (or ineffective) Boss behaviors you have seen when it comes to implementing change?

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Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Team Dynamics

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I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

4 Responses to “Change Agent Tip #3: Engage Your Boss – and Their Boss”

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks for the comments Kevin!

    When I first started doing Org Change as part of my Project Manager role way back when, I experienced quite a bit of variation in the levels of active sponsorship. That lead me to include active, demonstrated sponsorship as a “must have” when I transitioned into full-time Org Change work. The best sponsors seem to either know to do these things by nature or learn to do them the hard way – based on experience!

  2. Jim says:

    I am especially struck by how often sponsors will get involved early in a big change project and then disappear!

  3. Dylan says:

    Good ideas! Thanks for the post!

  4. Kevin Rutkowski says:

    You make a great point about the importance of having active executive sponsorship on a project from the start. Most projects that I’ve worked on don’t have top executives involved on a regular basis. This reduces acceptance of the project because there isn’t evidence that the project really matters to top management.

    However, last year, I had the pleasure of working on a major project that had the COO of the company actively involved from the start. He didn’t micromanage the project, but he did make a point of talking, in person, to the team about the importance of the project on a regular basis. In addition, to emphasize the importance of our project, he assigned a Vice President to be actively involved on our project as part of the project team.

    Having the COO actively involved in the project (with the right level of involvement) made a huge impact on the success of our project. We were able to get the resources we needed to be successful, have important decisions made quickly, and had improved support for the project company-wide. I wish that every client could provide the same level of executive sponsorship for our projects.

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