The most important contributor to change management success

Prosci’s latest Best Practices in Change Management Report is full of helpful insights. The highlight of the 2014 report, in my opinion, is the list of the greatest contributors and obstacles to successful change management. The contributors and obstacles were identified by 822 participants in 63 countries – lending worldwide credibility to the study responses.

In a series of blog posts, I will share the seven contributors to successful change management, and Heather Lehmann will share the five obstacles – along with our real-life experiences as change management consultants and actionable tips.

This week, I’ll focus on the most important contributor to change management success: active and visible executive sponsorship. How important? For the eighth consecutive Prosci study, this contributor came out on top. Active and visible executive sponsorship was cited more than three times more frequently than any of the other contributing factors, which indicates how important sponsorship is to the success of change initiatives.

The study participants described “active and visible” executive sponsorship as:

  1. “Supporting the change”
    This means “giving consistent attention to the change and the need for change management”. 
  2. “Championing the change”
    Executive sponsors set up their organization for success by leading and motivating others. 
  3. “Making effective and influential decisions regarding the change”
    Aligning priorities is key to successful change management.
  4. “Maintaining direct communication with the project management and change management teams”
    Change management isn’t a one-time exercise. It’s essential that executive sponsors maintain high visibility and accessibility throughout the change. (Prosci, 2014, p. 19) 

What does this mean in practical terms? The Best Practices Report indicates that executives and senior leaders need to be committed to the change they are sponsoring, aware of the business value of managing the people side of change, and actively involved during all the stages of a change. Effective sponsors also build a critical mass of support for the change amongst other executives and senior leaders with influence over groups impacted by the change. We call this critical mass a sponsor coalition.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks to learn about the other contributors and obstacles to change management success identified in the Best Practices in Change Management Report. If your senior leadership team would like a more in-depth overview of the study results, please contact me.