Why Checkbooks Aren’t Sufficient

Advocates with checkbooks are not sufficient to make a change happen. At best they can lead a perfect installation. Benefits realization requires advocates to team up with a complete framework of sponsors, agents and targets.

In this one minute interview Daryl Conner underscores the importance of sponsorship for the realization of an organizational change. There is a difference between the mere installation of a change program and the realization of the benefits that you want to obtain.

Advocates With Checkbooks

Advocates can only bring about installation. For realization of the benefits to occur, you will need the sanctioning power of sponsors. More precisely, there is a whole framework of sponsors, agents, targets and advocates that needs to be in alignment for the benefits to be realized. The below list is taken straight from Daryl Conner’s blog:

  • Initiating Sponsor(s): The individual or group who strategically legitimizes implementation of a change, either within several major areas of the organization or enterprise-wide. Sponsors (regardless of their level) sanction initiatives through influential communications and meaningful consequences.
  • Primary Sustaining Sponsor(s): The individual or group who formally sanctions the change within relevant areas of responsibility, providing a “united front” of leadership support for the endeavor and coordinating implementation activities (across functional or geographical lines, as necessary).
  • Local Sustaining Sponsor(s): The individual or group who orchestrates the communications and consequences within the relevant tactical areas of responsibility necessary to ensure successful change implementation.
  • Change Agent(s): The individual or group who facilitates the development and execution of the implementation plans.
  • Target(s): The individual or group who must actually change. Advocate(s): The individual or group who wants to achieve a change but does not possess the necessary legitimization power.

In an earlier article I wrote that you need someone with the sanctioning power to drive the change all the way through the implementation, i.e.: not only propelling the program out of the harbor, but navigating it all the way to the destination. Sponsorship is about providing the required level of commitment and support to deliver on the promise. This can only be done by someone who has the ultimate control over the resources of your program.

Installation Versus Realization

At first you make think that we are discussing an academic difference or an artificial concept. Most people with a ‘just-do-it’ mindset tend to become impatient at this point. The next thing you know is that they plan an invasion and bypass every single ambassador or potential owner of the future state. Let me get this straight: checking boxes on the project plan has nothing to do with realizing benefits.

Installing the change can be done with a checkbook: it’s just a matter of hiring the right experts and performing the scores of your project plan. Realizing the benefits will require the advocates with checkbooks to partner with the sponsors that have the sanctioning power for the change to persist.

More On Relationship Issues

As a starting point for further reading you may want to dive into Daryl’s post on sponsor-agent relationship issues. It contains great links, including a contract for a sponsor-agent relationship that you can download for free.