Change Management: Creating Accountability

Why do we initiate projects in organisations?  It is to achieve an enhanced performance of one or more of many organisational outcomes. These can include profit, cost, safety, staff engagement, customer experience, organisational (brand) reputation, compliance etc.  These projects can and do go very well, yet studies continue to show projects under deliver more than half the time.  A lack of effective change management is often attributed to the reason for this underachievement. 

Projects by their nature deliver outputs, not outcomes.  It is by delivering the appropriate combination of outputs and the timely adoption of these outputs that we deliver the desired outcome.  Project Managers are rightly accountable for delivering outputs. So how do we achieve the adoption of the outputs? The method for this is Change Management.  What I repeatedly observe is that when the accountability for the outcome is clear (as in it can’t be handballed to another person, group or failure blamed on other factors), the recognition of the value in effective change management by the person accountable, increases significantly. 

My conclusion from this is, if you want to ensure effective change management practices are adopted, ensure there is an individual who is accountable for the outcomes of the project. They will then ensure the project delivers quality and timely outputs as well as timely adoption of those outputs.

So who should be accountable for the delivery of the outcome? The solution is a Project Sponsor. For the necessary influence to exist, the role needs to be at a very senior level. For most organisations this will be part of the Executive. Whatever size the organisation, it needs to be at a level where the sponsor needs to have sufficient influence so that people outside the sponsor’s line of control adopt the project with the appropriate priority. The sponsor also needs to be able to mobilise the required resources.  It is even more desirable if the sponsor has to live with the result of the project in their ongoing role, (skin in the game).  The roles of the sponsor include; gaining appropriate funding, supporting the attainment of other resources, assisting to overcome organisational barriers, achievement of the outcome(s).