Ali Girard

2014-05-06 07.28.36

Thoughts on Prosci

Last week I had the opportunity to spend three days in Whistler diving into the Prosci change management methodology with their Canadian affiliate, AdProThe course started bright and early every morning at 7:30 a.m. in order to pack in a large amount of material, which included:

I walked away from the course with a number of books, a certificate, a place mat, and one nagging concern.

The Prosci methodology places a heavy emphasis on the role of sponsorship in managing change. This does make a lot of sense – a leader with organizational authority touting the necessity and benefits of a change would obviously be a great boon to the initiative. Prosci isn’t just building this notion around speculation, either. They have research to back it up.

But what happens if the very nature of your organization doesn’t lend itself to “active and visible” sponsorship? What if you don’t have a tidy hierarchy, but more of a network? Or what if there’s so much going on that your change, even though it may be organization-wide, barely makes a blip on an executive’s radar? How do you accommodate this?

This is a very real difficulty in the less-than-tidy academic environment, complicated even more by the fact that on top of regular employees, you also have faculty with varying degrees of teaching commitments, and learners that rotate year after year.

What I’ve seen work successfully in lieu of strong executive sponsorship (keeping in mind that I work in an IT organization within an academic environment) is service owners leveraging their relationships to influence others. A service owner (not the project manager) with a strong understanding of the project, and the impacted stakeholders, can step into some of those traditional sponsor roles.

Additionally, they have the motivation to do this well, as once the project is complete they are responsible for the continued management of the service. If the change has gone poorly, they’re the one trying to hold everything together once the project team has disbanded.

However, there are two dependencies with this approach:

  1. The absence of organizational authority means that the service owner must be somewhat of a “people person.” They have to have the appropriate networks, and natural ability to influence, in order to compensate for their lack of authority.
  2. A service owner can’t make those big, bold announcements that executive sponsors can. They have to have the time to dedicate to one-on-one conversations in order to gain buy-in from various groups.

Is the role of sponsorship equally as complicated in your organization? How do you address this? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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