Imagine that you’re a department head in a regional office of a large national organization. For years, you’ve campaigned for a business process change that requires a new software deployment. Despite the steep up-front cost, you’re certain the return on investment will be impressive. Your process change concept may not have much traction at the division or corporate office, but you’re confident that if you can get it off the ground, it will be a winner. Finally, you’ve managed to get budget approval from the regional VP. You’ve found the best software developer and you’re ready to roll. Or are you?
Experienced process change consultants advise that an approved budget may not be enough to get the job done. Many a process change has been killed mid-stream because its sponsor failed to secure upper-level commitment. When tackling process change, it’s obviously essential to engage the stakeholders who will be directly affected. But in most cases, especially if an intervention or new software is involved, don’t forget to seek support as high up in the corporate chain of command as possible. Think of it as crossing the street in a combat zone: look left, look right, and then look up.
The more levels of management in an organization, the more important it is to have senior executive support for process change. In large and multi-national companies, it isn’t unusual for the plans of local business units to get lost in the corporate shuffle. Enlisting executive commitment for your process change will ensure that you can overcome the resistance you may encounter along the way.
Without visibility higher up the ladder, a process change project can be killed or sidelined for several reasons.
- New budget cuts may be mandated – an all-too-common experience these days. If HQ is unaware of your unit’s need
for process change, it’s an easy cut to make.
- Unbeknownst to you, the division or corporate office may fund a different solution to the problem your process change is intended to solve, making yours redundant or irrelevant.
- Your process change may not align with company strategic direction.
Although you may be action-oriented and eager to stake out your territory, haste can definitely make waste. In some cases, senior executive support is so critical that you’re doomed without it. In most cases, getting that commitment will simply allow you to get the job done more quickly and less expensively. Even if your process change plans are turned down when you seek upper-level endorsement, it’s better to get that decision sooner rather than later. Instead of wasting time and resources on a project that ultimately won’t see the light of day, you can spend the time building your case, or on other, more productive efforts.
While the risks of not having executive support are many, the benefits of having it are equally great. Process change experts know that the higher you go, the better the solutions. While you are familiar with local business unit issues, a more global perspective will help determine if the local problem you’ve identified is truly unique. Perhaps a more comprehensive solution can be of benefit to the larger organization. An aerial view may also help identify potential allies from other business units with whom you can team up to make your case.
How high is up? A good rule of thumb for seeking executive support is to go as high as possible, then try for one level higher. Incorporating senior executive commitment into your process change plans will ultimately make for a smoother deployment and get you to the finish line faster.