In this post, I'd like to address two of THE most important elements of the Management of Change - The Leadership & Emotional Management of Change module. I did not cover these in my last post.
[a5]. Stakeholder Management and [a10]. Sponsorship
So what are these elements; how do you define them and what do you, as the change agent, need to manage?
Stakeholder management is fundamental and critical to the success of any project in every organization I have ever worked within. By engaging the right people [interesting to ask, who ARE the right people]; in the right way [everyone likes to feel special and unique, so you need to think of the individuals themselves] in your change programme; this will make the difference between its success and... and to your career.
To start with, you need to conducted a Stakeholder Analysis exercise. What on earth is this you might ask?
OK, so you are going to change the world - well, the world that you are operating within. There are key people that can influence, object, support, hinder, drive, refuse, etc. the changes you are proposing. You absolutely need to find out from these people what is driving them.
The easiest and quickest way to do this - after identifying who is key - is to do a one-on-one interview with them. You should have identified the stakeholders in your area of the business and in your programme of change and will have marked out their positions on a stakeholder map. This might help visualise who you need to engage with. Share with the programme team to get their input - it helps build "change strength" to fight any resistance. Script the who process. Explain the changes proposed - often times people do not even know what the changes are. Walk them through the changes as if it was in "their shoes", so you are giving am impression of empathy and understanding what they might feel as part of the change . Ask them structured questions and even record the interview. You can even state up front, you are doing this to positively and accurately reflect their concerns.
So, having done this with a number of key stakeholders, you will have most of the information you need to plan how to manage communication with your stakeholders. The next stage is to plan your communication so that you can win them around to support your projects. Stakeholder Planning is the process by which you do this. You could layout the plan in the following areas - but this is only a guide:
Current Status – Advocate, supporter, neutral, critic, blocker
Key Interests and Issues
Influence - on who and by whom
Desired Programme Role (if any)
Desired Support – High, medium or low.
Actions Desired (if any).
Key Change Messages Needed.
Communications approach - verbal, written, visual, other.
Based on the Power/Interest Grid you created, you can plan your approach to Stakeholder Management. The amount of time you should allocate to managing stakeholders depends on the size and difficulty of your change programme and the amount of support you need to from the stakeholders achieve the results you want.
Think through the help you need, the amount of time that the stakeholder might have to put in, engagement or interaction with them and the time you will need to make this a success.
Focus on the high-power/high-interest stakeholders first and the low-interest/low-power stakeholders last, devise a practical plan that communicates with people as effectively as possible and that communicates the right amount of information in a way that neither under nor over-communicates.
Think through what you need to do to keep your best supporters engaged and on-board. Work out how to win over or neutralize the opposition of skeptics. Where you need the active support of people who are not currently interested in what you are doing, think about how you can engage them and raise their level of interest.
Also, consider how what you are doing will affect your stakeholders. Where appropriate, let people know as early as possible of any difficult issues that may arise, and discuss with them how you can minimize or manage any impact.
A good idea is to manage people's expectations about likely problems as early as possible. This gives them time to think through how to manage issues, and preserves your reputation for reliability.
Sponsorship is even more vital. This is the source of the programme. THe font from which everything flows forth. The key to the life of the programme. Ignore this element and the programme will fail - guaranteed.
Who is the sponsor of your change programme? Director? Head of Service? General Manager? CEO? CFO? CIO? Whoever it is, they are THE most important element of the programme.
You have to get to know them. Understand what makes them tick. Ensure the programme is meeting their change agenda. What are their expectations? Do they even support the change? Do they support you?
Its the "either or" effect. Get this wrong and the change ends. Get this right and it is sustained, the change programme flies!
Speaking personally, for my biggest change programme - I interviewed, face-2-face, the European CEO of a £10 billion business. I did a structured interview, telling him I was going to use the outcome to help the programme. I had canvased members of his leadership team beforehand and understood his "hot" buttons. When you are dealing with someone working at "30,000 feet" it is the subtleties of the conversation that matter - not the absolute detail.
The outcome? Well, it was one of the most successful change programmes for the company. It took 3 years, with an annual budget of £1m that was never cut. It delivered and enable the company to make some of the biggest changes ever. So yes, managing sponsors and stakeholders matter.
Why did I say two sides of the same coin? The approach is the same, as well as the outcome. The subtleties are different, but that is part of the mix.