Sponsoring Successful Change: What are the Keys to Effective Sponsorship?

    Posted by Katrina Slavey and Dale Gentz on Mar 26, 2019 10:18:06 AM
    Part of the Sponsoring Successful Change series:
    1. Sponsoring Successful Change: Your Role as Change Agent
    2. Sponsoring Successful Change: What is Sponsorship?
    3. Sponsoring Successful Change: Sponsorship—Does it Matter?
    4. Sponsoring Successful Change: What are the Keys to Effective Sponsorship?
    5. Sponsoring Successful Change: What Does Success Look Like?
    6. Sponsoring Successful Change: What Kind of Sponsor Would You Be?


    In our recent posts, we’ve been discussing the importance of sponsorship for organizational change. A committed sponsor can mean the success of any project; lack of sponsorship is sure to bring failure. This discussion will focus on what it takes to achieve effective sponsorship.

    The team chosen to carry out a project having significant impact on the organization should look for the presence of several things as it prepares to work with the people in that organization.

    • Understand the formal relationship that exists between senior leadership and providers in the operational governance of the group. That is, does their culture encourage collaboration through some structure such as a Network Operations Council? If so, before beginning, it can be useful for the participants in that structure to complete a self evaluation on their roles in sponsorship of major initiatives. For an example, click here.
    • The results of the self evaluation will provide the implementation team with a better understanding of the group’s culture and its willingness for change. From there, an optimum implementation plan can be developed.
    • In developing this plan, you must always be cognizant of the sponsorship or lack thereof. Key number one is to have a clear statement of the objective to be accomplished; a close second is to have a thorough, detailed implementation plan.

    The plan consists of multiple parts.

    • Communications: What communications will take place between project leaders and those impacted by the project? How will those occur and how frequently? Who will they be from? What will be the means for project leaders to receive feedback from the recipients? How will this feedback be addressed? Communications must always present a united front while addressing the change. There is nothing worse or more damaging than mixed signals.
    • Ownership: If the group has a structured operational governance council, has buy-in been achieved at that level? Has buy-in been obtained from provider thought leaders? If not, how will that take place and when? Have key concerns been identified and how are they being/will they be addressed?
    • Action Plan and Schedule: Each deliverable should have a detailed tactical action plan and a schedule for completing those steps. Major milestones to be achieved along the way should be identified. This will be significant in tracking progress in completing the plan. It is important that all parties be kept abreast of the progress and understand any obstacles or barriers – we like to call those opportunities.
    • Course Corrections: In almost every significant project, course corrections must be made. Obviously, you can’t know in advance what those will be or why they’ll be needed. If you had that insight, you would have accounted for them at the outset. The point is that you need a mechanism to identify obstacles that would require course corrections and a process for developing a revised plan and getting approval to implement the revision. Any course corrections should be addressed in the communication plan.

    Where does sponsorship fit into all this? Simply put, the sponsor needs to be actively engaged every step along the way as the action plan is developed. While those charged with project implementation will produce the plan, it must align with the sponsor’s vision of what needs to be done and he/she must approve it and own it.

    Perhaps an example would be useful. At the request of the medical group CEO, we will be performing an operational assessment. This is an objective evaluation of the group to identify strengths and potential improvement areas. When completed, it provides a clear pathway toward operational and financial viability. Engagement of our sponsor is crucial to success of this effort. The sponsor must make clear throughout the organization that full disclosure and candor is expected of those who will provide information to the operational assessment team. If the findings, recommendations, and action plan developed as a result of the operational assessment are based on incomplete or inaccurate information, the client will fail to achieve the desired return on its investment in the project.

    So, what does effective sponsorship look like? A coordinated effort in achieving the necessary change.  The key sponsor must possess the ability to communicate effectively, achieve buy-in from all the key stakeholders, hold the implementation team accountable to tactics and timelines, and possess the ability to be flexible when course corrections are necessary. All of these elements are critical in ensuring a successful change but there are so many more! Stay tuned as we discuss in further detail in our next installment. 



    Topics: Physician Practice Management, Engaging Employed Physicians, Medical Group Consulting

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