In many projects the need for getting the right people to sponsor, lead and influence a change is often overlooked. People are given roles and titles within a project without the understanding of what responsibility comes with that position. This can lead to poor adoption, lack of ownership and ultimately even project failure.
Four key business roles can (or should!) be in place on any project. Each of these roles are integrated and integral to the project team finding the path to successful project and change outcomes.
Sponsors: Typically the Sponsor is the person who is responsible for the overall success of the change. The Sponsor is accountable for the project and business change outcomes, ensuring the project is fit-for-purpose and conducted in an efficient and effective manner.
In my experience, Sponsors are often given the job without understanding how critical their role is and what is expected of them. Wherever possible, the project team should do their utmost to try and ensure the role and responsibilities are defined up front – so the Sponsor knows what they are getting themselves in for!
Ultimately, they are accountable for the successful delivery of benefits from the change in their area. From the Adopters perspective they have the organisational power to legitimise change, reward commitment and provide consequences for not changing.
Change Agents: Working in tandem with Sponsors, Change Agents usually form the project steering committee and are responsible for the planning and execution of activities that enable people to adapt to and implement the change.
Representatives that have already been directly affected by the change should be in place to ensure that they have the ability to understand and communicate the impacts and benefits within their own organisation. These change agents can then assist other project members as they transition through the change.
The Change Agents will provide the Influencers with a way to communicate back into the project and to assist with removal / reduction of resistance or other barriers to success.
Influencers: These people are instrumental in ensuring that there is a two way conversation happening with the business. Whilst they may have low organisational power, they have strong networks and respect from their peers.
This ability to influence others by delivering messages which are positive and supportive of the project is critical towards achieving high levels of adoption. Influencers also create a channel for listening to, supporting and encouraging engagement with Adopters. This is normally done through a number of informal and formal communications channels within their teams.
Adopters (End Users): The most important people on your team! These are the people who need to be convinced that the new way of working is better than the way it was.
More often than not, your Adopters are further broken down into effected stakeholder groups based on the impact the change may have on them. Defining these Adoption Groups provides a structure to tailor your adoption strategy to create the desired new behaviours, values and skills.