Four Dimensions of Sustaining Change Leadership
One of the paradoxes of strategic change is that the most important things are often the easiest to defer for matters that are more pressing but have less impact on success. Sponsorship, engagement, and accountability are the greatest drivers of lasting and meaningful change. However, the activities that sustain ownership, such as communication, governance, and relationship building, can feel like distractions from the tasks and issues of tactical delivery.
Many executives, frustrated with failed initiatives, make significant investments in methodologies and tools for managing large, complex projects. However, these improvements often do little to develop corporate cultures that embrace and sustain the disciplines of change. By itself, methodology simply forces change on people. This approach treats organizations as machines that perform efficiently when they are properly tooled and tuned and people as resources to be deployed.
In contrast, successful change leaders are comfortable seeing their organizations as complex ecosystems in which people at all levels are engaged as partners in creating enterprise value. These executives recognize that organizations don’t simply move from point A to point B. The straight-line cause and effect relationships implied by a focus on tactics do not adequately capture the challenges of complex change. Successful leaders develop more sophisticated and innovative approaches for achieving the engagement and accountability needed to produce real value. In this environment, leadership development and culture change are at least as important as the tools and processes of implementation.
One of the greatest risks to strategic change is that executive attention moves on after the program is chartered. It is not enough for sponsors to develop strategy and then turn the program over to the implementers. However, when the focus is on tactical delivery, it is easy for leadership to move on to the next set of problems before sustained value is realized. To keep sponsors engaged, program leaders must articulate the importance of executive engagement throughout the journey.
Program leaders need simple, yet powerful ways to communicate with sponsors about the ongoing work needed from them throughout the change lifecycle. One effective framework depicts change leadership activities along two axes.1Donald Vanthournout, Return on Learning: Training for High Performance at Accenture (Agate, 2006), 62-63 and Michael Beer and Nitin Nohira, Breaking the Code of Change (Harvard Business Press, 2000) 344-345. See also Marianne Broadbent and Ellen S. Kitsis, The New CIO Leader: Setting the Agenda and Delivering Results (Harvard Business Press, 2005) 31-33. The first axis describes the demand and supply sides of change leadership. Demand-side leadership sustains the desire and manages expectations for change. The supply side is concerned with delivery activities. This includes providing tools and methodologies, but supply-side leadership is about more than completing projects. Most importantly, it provides for the development of high performing organizations and teams that can sustain meaningful enterprise value.
The second axis in the framework reflects the macro vs. micro dimension of change leadership. For change efforts to be successful, both supply- and demand-side leadership must operate at all levels throughout the enterprise. Active sponsorship is needed to concentrate efforts across the organization as well as encourage individual ownership and development.
These two axes identify four areas in which significant leadership is needed from sponsors to
- ensure that initiatives have sufficient priority and legitimacy to align resources and mediate conflicts;
- engage with stakeholders at leadership and grassroots levels to make the change personal and motivate accountability;
- put the right management in place to navigate all of the streams of the change program and coordinate scope, sequence, and dependencies; and
- enable individuals and teams by developing of behaviors and skills necessary for high performance
This framework also highlights the importance of things that support all four quadrants. These activities are particularly impactful because they have a magnifying effect across the framework.
- Effective communication is much more than speaking with stakeholders. It consists of all forms of getting the message out, and my require explaining, coaching, prodding, and educating. The better sponsors are at communicating, the more they will be able to drive participation across the program.
- When done well, governance improves decisions across the board by ensuring that they are grounded in business reality. Governance also encourages stakeholder involvement in decision making and builds trust in the way that decisions are made.
- Capability architecture is much more than IT. It provides structure across people, processes, information, and technology so that they operate together to deliver business value.2Business Engagement Is Lost when Architecture is Technology-Focused In this way, it describes how all components of the change effort interact in delivering value and enabling the vision.
- Program leadership brings everything together as it coordinates, aligns and motivates participants across all aspects of the change effort.
This model provides a structure for helping sponsors understand where their involvement is needed throughout the program lifecycle. Change leaders can use it as a basis of their stakeholder engagement strategies, and they should ensure that they have sufficient executive commitment in each of these areas. In particular, focusing on the central factors that impact the overall change effort will enable leaders to magnify their impact in ensuring the success of their programs.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Donald Vanthournout, Return on Learning: Training for High Performance at Accenture (Agate, 2006), 62-63 and Michael Beer and Nitin Nohira, Breaking the Code of Change (Harvard Business Press, 2000) 344-345. See also Marianne Broadbent and Ellen S. Kitsis, The New CIO Leader: Setting the Agenda and Delivering Results (Harvard Business Press, 2005) 31-33.|
|2.||↑||Business Engagement Is Lost when Architecture is Technology-Focused|