Bryan Fontaine, Executive Change Advisor for Prosci and former EVP, Global Operations and Corporate Development Engineering for Bose Corporation, sat down with me to talk about being an effective executive sponsor during times of change. His insights are helpful, encouraging and especially relevant to organizations that are working to build change management capability at the enterprise level.  

Transitioning Between Sponsors

Bryan, how do you deal with change in the executive team during a change journey? For example, you have a big project underway and it's somewhat far along on the project path. Then you have a change in leadership at the sponsor level. Any advice for how to handle that?

I can only share a personal story about this. I had made the decision that I was going to be retiring from Bose. A little over a year ago, I made that decision and gave folks ample lead time, so we made sure we did it right. That was around the end of October and I basically retired at the end of June. And I knew that I had to make sure that the executive sponsor following me for change management fully understood what it was to lead in this effort. That person is our vice president of people at Bose.

And I made part of her standard work to go through all the go-sees with me. I continued to do the go-sees up until the point where I retired from the company. I think it was extremely apparent to me how much more her eyes were opened in terms of the work that was going on with our change managers and the projects, and she had a much higher appreciation.

Upon reflection, one of my regrets was that I didn't invite the CEO to the go-sees with me. I think if I were to do it again, I would probably make sure that I had an influence ability to make that happen because that's real. It's the most important work of the company. You've got people working in tandem trying to make sure they execute that properly by engaging our employees in the change as well. So, pull others into witnessing the work.

Multi-ethnic business people disscussing a budget plan in a meeting

The other thing you can do is to share updates with executive committees. We brought in multiple updates throughout the years, and we actually had the executive sponsor that was going to be introducing one of our model projects do the introduction and talk about their engagement in the process, as well. This allowed other leaders to reflect on whether or not they were as engaging as they needed to be.

Great insights, Bryan. You know, when life gives us lemons, we need to ask ourselves, how do we turn it into a citrus business? If we lose a sponsor midway through our journey, how do we look at this as an opportunity to upgrade the active and visible element of whoever fills that chair next? I think getting to them really early to say, "Hey, this is in flight, you're capturing the sponsor responsibilities. Let's get clear on what that is, and how can I as a change practitioner better support and enable you to succeed with your role as sponsor?" So, always trying to look at the glass as half full because this is an imperfect journey with trade-offs around every corner. Our ability to be adaptable to what comes our way is often one of the elements that helps us succeed.

Executive Sponsors Are Key to Success

Successfully building and deploying enterprise change capability requires strong sponsorship, particularly at the executive level. Learn more on the topic in this webinar, in which Bryan and I discuss  what it takes to make a strategic investment in change management, and how to lead your workforce through transformations while minimizing negative impacts.

Executive Sponsr and Role download article

 

Written by
Scott McAllister
Scott McAllister

Scott McAllister is a results-oriented leader with a passion for individual and organizational transformation. With experience living on three continents, Scott leads Prosci’s growth efforts by partnering with clients to architect results-driven change management solutions. Scott has spent the last 15 years helping clients initiate transformational change with a combination of strategy, operational excellence and innovation platforms across a broad range of industries, from healthcare and biotech to financial services and telecom.