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Executive Alignment is Critical to Change Management

My last blog analyzed change management. This blog will highlight executive alignment and how that benefits a change management initiative.

change managementHave you ever played on or seen a sports team where the coaches didn’t see eye to eye? Perhaps it was related to game strategy. Maybe skill techniques. Or what about as a child, when your parents didn’t agree on something? Perhaps it was about what you were or were not allowed to do or a disagreement over discipline. How did you feel? Confused? Directionless? Unaware of expectations?

The same phenomenon happens in the workplace. Prosci, a leading thought leader in the organizational change management space, tells us that the number-one factor in a project’s success or failure is “active and visible executive sponsorship” (Prosci, Best Practices in Change Management 2016). Taking that one step further, not only is active and visible executive sponsorship critical, but executives across the organization must also be aligned, have a common vision, and comparable levels of support.

Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace. Moreover, a majority of projects are transformational. What that means from a practical standpoint is that we’re crossing organizational boundaries. No longer are projects siloed within a single business unit, but they’re spanning entire organizations. To be successful, you need more than a single executive sponsor. You need leaders across the organization who will champion the cause for their respective line of business.

About a year and a half ago, we were about to close a deal with a large, Midwestern manufacturing company that was going to transition from Lotus Notes to Microsoft’s Office 365 platform, including Exchange for email. Almost absentmindedly, I asked the client’s IT executives, who were driving the project, if they had alignment across the organization to make the switch.

A change as big as migrating email platforms can cause tremendous disruption to a critical operational function. Would all mail history be migrated to the new system? Would employees know how to find the archives? What about contact and distribution lists? Would calendar items come across, and what about the conference rooms reserved for recurring meetings? How much time would be lost in resetting up business as usual functions? What kind of experience would this be for the employees?

In short, the answer was “no,” they didn’t have alignment. Moreover, a substantial amount of work was required to build the case for change to move to the new system. How could we tell the story around why the switch was worth the trouble and would pay off in the end? Building the story was key to getting alignment.

Without buy-in, the executives, like any rational person, would most likely have resisted the change. That resistance would have cascaded down through each business organization, causing significant friction, impeding the project, and likely resulted in a less-than-optimal adoption experience and putting the whole project at risk.

However, we were able to pause all other change-related activities to drive buy-in and gain executive alignment, and not just early in the project, but first. The alignment provided the greased skids required for the active and visible executive sponsorship across the enterprise, which was in fact, the number-one factor in the project’s ultimate success!

To learn more about the key concepts of change management and how to overcome challenges to achieve success, you can click here or download the guide below.

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