The 4 Secret Champions of Change Management

Many organizations think of a project sponsor as the most pivotal stakeholder during organizational change. And, to be fair, there are some really great reasons for that—project sponsors play a critical role in actually making change happen, from earning buy-in from leadership to using their authority and influence to shape the process. But while project sponsors do play a very important role in successful implementation, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you imagine it falls on their shoulders alone.

The most successful implementations are characterized not by a lone, heroic project sponsor, but by a whole team of heroes working together to help encourage adoption. If you’ve been focused on the role of the sponsor alone, here are four “secret” champions you’ll want to engage.

Champion #1: The Senior Leader Who Sets the Vision for Change

Across your organization, senior leaders are guiding teams toward a common North Star. Aligning toward a shared vision is one way that healthy organizations can divide work appropriately while working toward the same objective.

Still, these leaders are often left out of the conversation during times of organizational change. Instead of being engaged as active partners, they’re put on the same journey as every other associate in the enterprise. The unintended consequence of this approach is that these senior leaders aren’t recruited to use their best talents during implementation.

Remember, your people rely on the vision of your senior leaders. When you make them part of your change management plan, you help make the plan a success.

Champion #2: The Mid-Level Manager Who Guides the Team through Organizational Change

If your senior leaders are setting the vision, it’s your mid-level managers who guide your associates through day-to-day operations. When associates are confused by a change or don’t like a new piece of technology, your mid-level managers are the ones who help those associates through.

In other words, they play an important role in helping team members understand their roles in supporting strategic initiatives. But if mid-level managers aren’t properly engaged in the change management plan, they can’t be effective in helping their teams understand the benefits, goals, or greater purpose of what’s being done. That’s a recipe for frustrated associates who resist adopting new tools.

Champion #3: The Front-Line Team Member Who Executes on the Change

When making organizational changes, you may be tempted to ask teams to simply grin and bear it. After all, these changes will yield big benefits, from providing teams with better technology to enhancing their workplace processes. If they can just get through the transition phase, surely they’ll appreciate the change when all’s said and done, right?

Unfortunately, experience shows that’s simply not true. If you’re not engaging your front-line team members, you run the risk of earning reluctance and resentment from the people your daily operations depend on. And there’s another drawback as well.

Even the best-laid plans don’t always go as you’d hope. Regular associate feedback can be an excellent tool to help gauge implementation, make necessary changes to your roadmap, and keep employees engaged. You can help transform these front-line team members from reluctant, passive associates to being champions of the new changes.

Champion #4: The Network of Champions Who Ensure a Healthy Culture of Change

Sometimes it helps to have somebody on the inside—a change champion working on your behalf within a division. And hey, why stop at one? Why not identify a whole network of individuals positioned to help you encourage adoption?

Sure, this might take a little bit of legwork, but when you build your network of champions you create a whole team of support for senior leaders, mid-level managers, and your front-line associates. This support leads to better adoption throughout your organization, and an implementation that reaches your goals.

Bonus Champion: An Experienced Change Management Partner

As you may have gathered by now, good change management is a whole lot of work, and it goes far beyond what a single change sponsor can do alone. And for most organizations, change happens rarely. Enlisting a partner who specializes in organizational change management gives you expertise and support to help your teams embrace change.

Finding the right partner makes a big difference. From creating the initial roadmap to ensuring effective communications, supporting your teams with training, and reinforcing a change after it’s made, a good partner can help you ensure fast ROI and full engagement.

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