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 this blog series, we have been talking about the important role sponsorship plays in the implementation of change. This segment focuses on the outcomes of successful change management sponsorship.
First, and foremost, success is defined by whether the goals of the project were achieved.
As we have pointed out previously, much of the good work done on the role of sponsors is contained in Daryl Conner’s book Managing at the Speed of Change. He makes the case that success comes from commitment. That commitment shows itself through the investment of resources; consistent, relentless pursuit of the goal; rejection of ideas that may promise short-term benefits but are inconsistent with the overall strategy; steadfastness in the of face of adversity; and application of creativity, ingenuity, and resourcefulness in resolving problems or issues. Effecting change is hard. Doing so successfully requires all of these commitments.
It may be informative to begin with what success doesn’t look like. Unsuccessful sponsorship is seldom intentional. Despite that, the result is the same: a failure to achieve the stated goals. Unsuccessful sponsors don’t attend and actively participate in appropriate project meetings. They don’t prepare, that is, they don’t read the materials and agenda supplied in advance. Unsuccessful sponsors don’t fully consider the impact other decisions they make will have on the project they are sponsoring. Let’s say, for example, the project is to move responsibility for all medical group appointment scheduling into a central department. Two weeks before go-live, the sponsor approves the termination of the manager chosen to lead the new department, without having identified an appropriate interim or permanent replacement. The chances of a successful go-live have diminished significantly and will likely lead to operational issues that will cause significant grief to the providers impacted. What is left is confusion and a loss of vision for how to move forward with the intended goal.
Now let’s focus on successful sponsorship. It is always intentional. It never waivers. Sponsor support is visible to all impacted by the project. The sponsor makes appropriate decisions when needed. He/she maintains current knowledge of project progress and status and actively participates. When resources are needed, they are given. The sponsor limits the number of change projects taking place at the same time. He/she is committed to seeing the project completed.
Sharing the vision is perhaps the beginning and one of the most important elements of successful change. In our last post, we used the example of an operational assessment. While the operational assessment was not a change per se, it was a prelude to change. Because of the visible leadership and support of the sponsor for the project, the assessment was successfully completed. Due to the sponsor’s leadership, there was open and honest communication throughout the organization during the operational assessment, resulting in the identification of material operational issues and producing multiple valuable recommendations. This led to a subsequent project. The goal of the new change project is to implement these recommendations. Again, success will be measured by the degree to which change takes place as a result of this implementation phase.
This can be daunting and most certainly not always easy. Yet, when handled appropriately and with committed sponsorship, success can be shared by all.
Let’s take a look at a successful transition of an electronic medical record. The organization has more than 75 locations with multiple EMRs in use. That means 75 locations that will be going live on a single system on the same day. Where does one begin? First, by ensuring that weekly implementation meetings are attended by all the responsible parties – this includes the sponsor, Information Technology, Operations, Finance, Marketing, Education, etc. All parties need to be present at the table to understand the needs and the desired outcome. Most importantly, the sponsor’s active participation in this meeting enabled immediate adjustment to the plan, targets, timelines, and resources as necessary. The process requires training of the new system, understanding what data (if any) can be converted, technical dress rehearsals to ensure that everything is working appropriately. In this scenario, the sponsor participated in all of these aspects. For example, the sponsor engaged with the education team to ensure all materials were appropriate and accurate. In addition, the sponsor attended the week-end appointment conversion sessions to offer visible assistance and moral support. In other words, the sponsor was present and consistent in the vision and made certain that the required resources were available at each of the 75 locations to ensure online support. During the initial two weeks of go-live, the sponsor was available on demand to the command center team so that high level issues could be reported and resolved quickly. Communication mechanisms were created so that changes could be communicated quickly and efficiently. Finally, update meetings were held three times per day. Here, too, the sponsor was immediately available to authorize any needed changes. With all of these items in place, 75 practices successfully transitioned and moved forward. The result? A shared medical record throughout the system that not only improves patient care but improves revenue capture for the system.
It’s time now for you to give some thought to this process. In our next blog we will summarize the key points identified throughout our series and ask you to look in the mirror and ask yourself “What kind of sponsor will I be when the time comes?”
 Managing at the Speed of Change—How Resilient Managers Succeed and Prosper Where Others Fail, Daryl R. Conner, P.147