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You Can’t Go It Alone – Partnership with Sponsor and Project Management

I opened this series back in January referring to a trifecta for change management – the close coordination of content, training and change management to ensure the successful implementation of a project.

Today, I return to the idea of a trifecta, only this time I rely on a Prosci model that speaks to the coming together of leadership, project management and change management. When all three are present and working well together, delivering the intended benefits of a major initiative is much easier than when one (or more) of the parts of the triangle is missing.

• Leadership provides the north star – the vision for the project and the benefits that will ensue with its successful delivery. As mentioned elsewhere on this website, effective leaders are active and visible sponsors of change. They not only kick-off a project but engage the team throughout the work – vetting their assumptions, challenging their analysis and ultimately, championing their recommendations throughout the organization. They create alliances with other executives and help clear roadblocks that may impede implementation.

• Project Management makes sure the path to completion is clear for the project team and that that team is resourced properly (i.e., all required roles are accounted for, with full-time, part-time or contract support, as needed). The project manager understands how work needs to be sequenced and is keenly aware of the interdependencies that exist. Moreover, he or she knows what tasks can be done concurrently to increase the team’s efficiency. Finally, an effective project manager has the respect of the executive team and can escalate issues to get quick resolution when needed.

• Change Management looks at the people impacts of change. If the project manager schedules the work and ensures the team is properly resourced, the change manager asks “what will it take for our people to understand and adapt to the proposed change?” and importantly, “how much change can the organization handle at any one time, while continuing to run the day-to-day business?” Effective change managers have their finger on the pulse of the company and can advise the executive team about an organization’s readiness to accept change and what actions need to be taken to increase that capacity.

In some recent work with my former company, I’ve become increasingly sensitive to the necessity for all three elements of this trifecta to be present. Change Management can’t go it alone. On some of projects, preliminary strategies have been sketched out by third-party consultants but specific operational ownership has not been assigned – so we waste time searching for strategic direction and crisp decisions. On others, project managers are missing, so other people on the team try to move the work forward piecemeal, without a comprehensive and centralized work plan that identifies all required tasks and tracks their completion, leaving some to wonder “who’s on first” and how will we get there?

So my advice before any project gets underway (again, a simple truism) is to know who’s playing which part – and to be absolutely clear who is providing leadership/sponsorship, project management and change management on the team. If one of those components is missing, slow down and get them in place. It will ensure greater success in the long run.

One of my favorite phrases is “go slow to go fast.” In the case of project work (which is seemingly always urgent), foundational planning and role clarity are critical to the successful completion of work and the implementation of solutions into the business.

How Do You Show Up in the Face of Change?
Leading in the Moment – “What’s Needed Now?”

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