Even Sponsors need to change

    Nov 13, 2020 | Posted by Quentin Orsmond

    Senior leaders play an essential role in times of change. An organisation looks to its leaders to be active and visible sponsors of change and to explain why the change is necessary and why we can't stay as we are.  Sponsors 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 could they approach it?

    Take a look at the following case study by CMC’s Quentin Orsmond as an example of when leaders need to stand up and be counted for, and  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, as their high employee turnover was adversely affecting their cost base. 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 viewed as a necessity in their industry. 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 - the future state. 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?

    Webinar: How to Engage Sponsors, Friday 20th November

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    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.

    Percent of Respondents That Met or Exceeded Objectives

    The conclusion

    We realised that we required a sponsor of the change at the highest level (Managing Director) and explained this 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 dedicate their personal time , as well as some of their resources, to the change. According to the Prosci research, we needed leaders who would be:

      • Active and visible
      • Build a coalition of leadership support for the change
      • Communicate directly with impacted staff

    We recommended a Prosci 1-day workshop for Executive sponsors to explain the importance of their personal role to each sponsor so that they were able to :

      • Understand and explain why change management is important to their part of the business
      • Position their change projects for strategic success
      • Position themselves for personal 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

    CMC Global recognises that the people are at the heart of every change – it’s what we do. We specialise in building change capability for every role in your organisation, from senior leaders to front-line employees. We can bring private Prosci® change management training to your office and offer you bespoke support to help your organisation through any type of change. Download our course comparison guide or get in touch with the team to find out how we can work with you.


    Topics: Change Sponsorship, Leaders of Change, Business Performance Improvement, Sponsors