It’s still the Senior Manager wot did it

Contributors to Change Success

A recent email from Prosci about their 2013 survey (results published this year) lists the top seven contributors to change success. This is probably the most important result from the survey and the most widely reported. Top of the list, again, and by a large margin is ‘active and visible executive sponsorship‘. There are some changes in the other contributors. All have been re-written to make them more compelling. I notice that dedicated change management resources and funding has moved up the list.

The overall list is:

  1. Active and visible executive sponsorship
  2. Structured change management approach
  3. Dedicated change management resources and funding
  4. Frequent and open communication about the change and the need for change
  5. Employee engagement and participation
  6. Engagement and integration with project management
  7. Engagement with and support from middle management

There are no surprises here, given the Prosci approach to change management which is reflected heavily in item 6. I will examine three of these: items 1, 3, and 6.


This used to be ‘Senior management support’ but I prefer the text of Active and visible executive sponsorship. This includes a cultural reference to ‘executive’ as a synonym for top management in the US. But I doubt most people will miss the implication; unless you are a top manager. Sponsorship was cited three times more than any other contributor to success, such is its importance; indeed it seems that it is the absence of senior sponsorship that contributes most to failure! The following graph from the report makes the case very effectively.

SponsorEffectivenessThe ‘active and visible’ words really emphasise the role of the sponsor. It means it is hard work (active) and critical component is getting out there and engaging with stakeholders (visible); all of which means the sponsor must dedicate time to the success of the change.


Item 3 is dedicated change management resources and funding. It is quite obvious that if you want something difficult done well then it will take some effort; well that doesn’t explain why many organisations still expect to do change for free. Dedicated resources are critical for change success. They don’t have to be full time, in fact volunteers working part time can be far more effective if organised. If you haven’t read Kotter’s article on how to build a change capability (and now a book) then this is a way to make change a way of life for an organisation.

I still find organisations that rely on the management hierarchy to deliver change through an organisation; on top of the day job. Most organisations have no spare capacity amongst their operational staff do carry out change; so the resources must be additional. It’s just the same as asking line managers to do all the HR, or finance, as well as the day job. I know, some companies expect line managers to do all the HR and they get what they pay for; so the idea still applies.

Change and Project Management

Item 6 is engagement and integration with project management. Here I tend to depart from Prosci. If the main vehicle you have for delivering change is project management then item 6 makes sense. I believe that other vehicles are also available. An obvious alternative is Programme Management (as captured in the government backed Managing Successful Programmes). Programme Management is better because it is about strategic change through benefits delivery. If a change isn’t strategic then why are you doing it? However, both the project and programme approach are inherently water-fall approaches involving heavy planning and traditional management approaches. I think change is a different activity and benefits from a different approach. The ‘agile’ approach, promoted by Peter Senge, now taken up by Kotter, seems to be a better way. I don’t mean agile as in Agile Project Management; the basic idea is the same; the method is somewhat different.

What do you think? Post a comment or send us a tweet @C4ChangeMgt

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