Sponsoring Successful Change: What is Sponsorship?

    Posted by Katrina Slavey and Dale Gentz on Mar 6, 2019 11:22:00 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?

    key-sponsorshipLast time in “Sponsoring Successful Change,” we discussed the value of a sponsor in the implementation of any substantial organizational change. What is sponsorship? In his terrific book, Managing at the Speed of Change, Daryl R. Conner says, “A sponsor is the individual or group who has the power to sanction or legitimize change. They are responsible for creating an environment that enables these changes to be made on time and within budget.”

    When the change implementation agent team is assembled, it can’t really start its work within the organization until the stage has been set by the sponsor. That can take many forms, depending on the nature of the project. A carefully crafted communications plan is usually the best place to start. A clear description of the issue prompting the need for change is a crucial part of that plan. A vision of how the change is expected to affect the organization is very useful. An unequivocal statement on the part of the sponsor about his/her support of the need for change and the plan for the change must be a part of this communication. This serves to validate the authority of the change implementation agent team to carry out its mission.

    As an example, let’s say that the organization has identified the need to change its physician compensation plan. Such a change has obvious impact on key stakeholders in the organization. Strong, clear support from the sponsor will be required, since significant pushback is almost a certainty, regardless of the fairness of the change. Consistent, regular messaging from the sponsor throughout the project will be vital to increasing the chances of successful implementation.

    Certainly, sponsoring a specific change isn’t the only day-to-day responsibility of this leader. For that reason, it is appropriate to rely on the change implementation agent team to craft the plan and the message in a way consistent with the leader’s usual communications style. Messaging should be clear and consistent from the sponsor level to the team level.

    The duty of the sponsor is not over after the project is announced. The change implementation agent team should provide periodic updates to the leader to assure the change is going according to plan or to get guidance on changes to the plan to get it back on course. There should also be further communications with those targeted for the change, sharing progress and struggles. These communications serve to keep the change targets focused on the goal. In our physician compensation plan example, the team may have encountered valid but unexpected reasons to change the original plan. A sponsor’s visibility in explaining the course change and the sponsor’s support of it will be a clear sign to the targets of the change of the sponsor’s engagement in and commitment to a successful outcome.

    While it doesn’t often happen, there may be times when priorities change and what was important yesterday is no longer important today or has been replaced by something of greater significance. When this happens, it is the sponsor’s role to be clear about the change in priorities and the need to wind down the active change project. A change implementation agent team functioning without the support of the sponsor is quickly rendered ineffective.

    In this and our first segment, we have explored the importance of having an identified sponsor for organizational change, and the role the sponsor has in assuring effective implementation. Sponsorship matters. It is the key critical component to any successful change implementation. Join us next time as we dive deeper into its importance. 

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

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