Photo by Averie Woodard

We have been helping Change Management practitioners in over 33 countries, in 6 continents, for well over a decade. We have seen common trends and features emerging in the journeys that practitioners have been taking in all of this. We think that it may be a good time to reflect, share and co-create an understanding of this journey so that we can help to make ourselves better facilitators of change in the world. We have started a series that is part of our program to contribute to a better society, enabling changes to be more successful. We shall explore the practitioner’s life-cycle, the parts they find easy to practice and those that seem to elude us. We will look to research but also invite our partners and readers to share their own experiences.

One of the big realisations we have had is that we can only achieve change success by enabling and helping others – specifically leaders. Prosci’s most recently published research has again shows that change sponsorship remains the no. 1 success factor, closely followed by using a structured approach to managing change.

Change practitioners are instrumental in helping senior leaders play their sponsor roles, and they are the users of a structured approach to managing change. For anyone wishing to take the practitioner journey, this awareness drives the desire to learn more about using a structured approach and planning sponsor actions. However, our observation with thousands of practitioners is that we find both areas challenging to achieve for different reasons.

Photo: Illiya Vjestica

The challenge of sponsorship often relates to achieving awareness and appreciation of their importance in playing their roles. Again the latest research suggests that we have not made significant inroads in this space. The percentage of sponsors having a full understanding of their role crawled from 12 to 19% over the past four years, with ‘adequate’ understanding remaining essentially flat at 30%. So it’s still true to say that less than half of the sponsor community has sufficient knowledge of their role. Executives are very busy people, perhaps even more so these days with a drop in markets and economies’ predictability. We cannot expect them to search for new areas of knowledge unless they are aware of how vital their role is to achieving change success. It’s our role to build that awareness. We have found that sharing research/authoritative articles and case studies, concisely, helps to prick up their curiosity and motivate them to pay attention to this. Please share by writing to the contact address at the end of this diary if you have found other ways that have worked.

Applying a structured change management approach depends on various factors, like:

— At the project level, the availability of funds and resources assigned
— The extent of information, tools, templates etc. available to practitioners
— The extent to which the organisation deploys change management
— How much do the project and functional leaders understand the value of change management
— The degree of change management maturity in the organisation
— Support and coaching available to the practitioner, especially in the early stages of their journey.

Most of these factors are beyond the control of the change practitioner. However, it is not beyond our capability to discuss the need for these with leaders. So, what more experienced change practitioners are sharing is that they spend almost as much time analysing and discussing the change project’s environment as on the project itself. What has been your experience – please share with the contact address at the end of this diary?

Photo: T. Marsicano

The last factor listed above is one that we can substantially influence. Adequate training should always be accompanied by or include coaching because the transformation of knowledge to ability is not automatic, nor easy. Anyone who has studied ADKAR® knows what we mean. We have found that some practitioners readily use the coaching element in our training while others do not. In many cases where they do not, they say that they have insufficient time/budget dedicated to change management.
In some cases, they expressed this as a feeling of loneliness in their mission. Indeed the latest research points to a reduction from 32% to 28% in dedicated funding, and it has nothing to do with Covid-19! The percentage of projects with dedicated change management has also remained static at 67%. So there is much work still to do.

So, our journey as change practitioners is long and the road winds around. To avoid sliding off, we may need to go a little slower and engage leaders more, by showing and sharing the output of research and the analysis we undertake of the environment in which our projects of change run.

In future diaries, we will review other aspects of the practitioner’s journey, like the case they need to make for change management and what they have done to build and sustain adoption and usage, to name a few. We look forward to sharing our experience and hearing your stories.