Building an Engagement Strategy
This is the second post in my series about managing change in large organizations. You can read my first post here.



A typical change management strategy consists of 5 tracks: (1) Engagement, (2) communication, (3) Training, (4) Coaching and (5) Transition Management (including resistance management).  This post focuses on the first track: Engagement.

Once I have completed the groundwork in understanding the organization described in my initial post, I can begin to create a strategy to engage the impacted stakeholders.  Successfully involving key stakeholders upfront will save valuable project time and ultimately improve user adoption.

Below is a diagram displaying the 4 change roles I like to assign organizational employees during times of change. It is helpful to not only identify and engage the stakeholders that are impacted by the change, but also those that are in a position to guide and monitor others through the change journey.

Note: Each of these change roles are defined in more detail in the Roles & Responsibilities section below.

How to Engage the Impacted Stakeholders

Below are some of the guiding principles I use for engaging stakeholders:

1. Assign internal resources to stakeholder engagement roles as often as possible. It is much easier to implement change within an organization when the change is led by internal resources.

2. Active and visible support from senior management is one of the most crucial factors in the success of a change initiative. For this reason, assign the highest possible ranking officer as the primary change sponsor for your project or program.

3. Assign departmental directors (or equivalents) as the secondary change sponsors. For large changes that impact multiple divisions, directors are the link between executive leaders and the change agents (managers) guiding the front-line employees through change. The directors are tasked with creating a supportive environment for the change and actively promoting the user-adoption plan with their departmental managers.

4. Studies have shown that the direct supervisor has more influence over an employee’s motivation to change than any other person at work. For this reason, assign the change agent role to the direct supervisor (or manager) of the change targets (end-users).

5. Where feasible, create a straight sequential line from the primary change sponsor to the change targets. An increase in organizational layers between the two ends of the stakeholder engagement spectrum (from primary change sponsor to change targets) increases the chance of miscommunication and conflicting messages. For example, managers that are unaware of the upcoming changes may continue reinforcing behaviours that counter the new ways of working. This will give the opportunity for the change targets to regress back to old ways.

Roles & Responsibilities

Primary Change Sponsor

The primary change sponsor is the individual with the authority to initiate and legitimize the need for change, set the strategic direction, and provide resources (budget, people and technology) to achieve the planned financial targets and goals.

The primary change sponsor is asked to own the following responsibilities.
• To help remove barriers when required.
• To determine measurements of success.
• To participate in activities that will show his support for the overall change program/ initiative.  Active and visible support by senior management is one of the most crucial factors in the success of a change initiative.
• To influence his executive peers, getting them to believe in the change he is sponsoring, and having them communicate key message within their own departments.

Secondary Change Sponsors

Secondary Change Sponsors are tasked with creating a supportive environment for change and actively promoting the user-adoption plan. Their departmental managers typically act as change agents. The secondary change sponsor’s job is to operationalize the strategic direction set by the primary change sponsor. They are the link between executive leaders, including the change sponsor, and the change agents in their department.

I usually assign director-level resources to the secondary change sponsor role. A director’s authority can be utilized to allocate time and resources, such as managers and direct supervisors, to guide and monitor the end-users (change targets).

The secondary change sponsor is asked to own the following responsibilities.
• To mobilize their department towards change by allocating time and resources.
• To understand and communicate the change vision and need within their own department to build buy-in and commitment.
• To monitor the progress of change adoption and create a supportive environment.
• To acknowledge resistance and work with the departmental change agents to resolve or reduce resistance to change.  Keep in mind that resistance to change is normal. It is the prolonged resistance that should be addressed or eliminated.
• To report back to senior management, including the change sponsor, on the issues that are impacting daily operations.  This information helps identify any widespread issues.

Change Agents

With a solid understanding of the upcoming change and the change management tools at their disposal, the change agent manages and guides his/her team through change.

I usually assign the change agent role to managers or direct supervisors. Studies have shown that the direct supervisor has more influence over an employee’s motivation to change than any other person at work.

The change agent is asked to own the following responsibilities.
• To lead the change and to display personal commitment towards the change.
• To execute the tasks assigned to them in the change plan (or to provide recommendations to increase user adoption for their team).
• To engage their direct reports in daily discussions about the change.
• To coach their direct reports on new standards.
• To measure and manage resistance to change.
• They measure performance, manage resistance to change and celebrate successes.

Change Targets

The change target is the end-user impacted by the change.  The change target is any individual impacted by the change that does not fall into the other three stakeholder engagement roles.

The change target is asked to own the following responsibilities.
• To manage and report on their personal response to change.  Feedback from the change targets will help the project team evaluate the change plan and make the necessary changes to stay on course (if required).
• To integrate change into their daily activities.
• To apply new skills and behaviours and work with new structures (if required).
• To achieve results and celebrate successes.

Assigning 1 of the 4 roles above to the impacted stakeholders helps me understand the depth and breadth of the upcoming change. It also helps me place the impacted individuals into different groups by role and attach activities, such as training and coaching, to help the change initiative move forward. Specific activities related to the engagement strategy will be discussed in a future post after I have described the other 4 tracks on strategy (communication, training, coaching and transition management).

Posts related to this series – Change Strategy:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy
3. Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy
4. Part 4 – Building the Training Strategy
5. Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy
6. Part 6 – Building the Transition Strategy

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Helping individuals, groups and organizations through change.

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