Thought Leadership Articles

    Even Sponsors Need to Change

    Apr 15, 2021 | Posted by Quentin Orsmond

    Senior leaders play an essential role in times of change. An organisation looks to its leaders to be visible sponsors of change and to demonstrate why the change is necessary. They also need to be a role model for the change itself. So when a consortium of companies wanted to address and build a new organisational culture, how did they approach it? 

    The following case study is as an example of when leaders need to stand up and be counted for, but also how necessary it is that the change needs to come from the bottom up in one of the most challenging changes an organisation can address – culture change. 

    The client

    A consortium created from three different companies in the same industry wanted to improve their employee engagement scores.  They employed about 200 staff and many of these were highly skilled and competent professionals, many with Engineering degrees.

    The leadership team also consisted of many engineers which was a requirement based on the industry in which they operated.  To improve their employee engagement, one of the solutions the leadership team decided on was to “build a new organisational culture based on a philosophy of customer service and not “well designed and engineered technical solutions”.  

    This required a change in organisational culture and a change in the behaviours and values of the organisation.

    The solution

    My role on the project was to look at the change management associated with building a customer service culture and to ‘implement this new culture”.

    My starting point with any Culture change, apart from using the Prosci methodology, is to look at the current values in the organisation.  I was fortunate in that the organisation had defined and documented their organisational values prior to my engagement.  The challenge is that these were defined by the executive leadership team and they did not include any staff in the identification of the organisational values.

    My second step in culture change was to identify what behaviours one would see in the organisation if people were living the values.  To enable this, we scheduled group sessions of 10-20 staff per session where, in a fun way, we identified the specific behaviours we would see in the organisation if people were living the values.  

    The sessions were interactive, fun and a great way to include staff in solution design.  As outlined by Prosci in their research “Staff engagement in values and culture change is a necessity”.  

    How can we ask people to buy in to new behaviours and culture if they were not involved in defining them?

    The challenge

    During the staff engagement sessions, it became clear from many staff members bought into the new required culture and the behaviours that they need to change.

     They also highlighted the need for these behaviours to be evident across the whole organisation.  This would include changing the behaviour of the senior leadership team.  The last thing you want is the perception of leaders telling staff to “do as I say and not as I do!”.

    Staff also felt that they would take ownership of the “new way we do things around here!”. This requirement was directly in line with the Prosci research in terms of the role of a sponsor and aligned with the Prosci research about how good sponsorship directly correlates to project success.

    Sponsorship Effectiveness-1

    The conclusion

    We realised that we need a sponsor of the change at the highest level (Managing Director) and positioned the feedback to the executive leadership team.  We knew the importance and value of leaders who would sponsor the change in each their business units and also provide time and resources to the change.  According to the Prosci research, we needed leaders who would be:

    • Active and visible
    • A Senior Executive Sponsor who would build a coalition of leadership
    • Communicate directly with staff

    We recommended Prosci's Sponsor Briefing workshop to provide an overview of the role of the sponsor to achieve the following objectives:

    • Why does change matter for executives
    • Positioning their projects for strategic success 
    • Position themselves for sponsorship success
    • Position their organisation for change success

    Lessons learned

    • Always involve staff in culture change
    • Don’t forget culture change impacts leaders too and leaders need to change first

    Organisational values and behaviours apply to the whole organisation not just staff. Sponsorship, from a project and change perspective is a non-negotiable

    Interested in learning more?

    Become equipped to guide your sponsors during change, by attending an upcoming Prosci Change Management Practitioner Certification Programme. Find out more.

    We can also offer Prosci® change management training and bespoke support to help your organisation through any type of change. Take a look at our range of solutions for organisations or get in touch with the team to find out how we can work with you. 

    Topics: Prosci training, change management certification, Sponsors, Sponsorship