Change management; Gaining Support from Leaders

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Increasingly we are hearing a familiar story from Customer Management professionals. Tasked with increasing sales, or improving customer retention or making efficiency savings, many are reporting the biggest challenge is not deciding what to do, but gaining the support and backing to do it. The brief invariably places as much emphasis on “creating a compelling story to sell the recommendations to the leadership team” as it does on defining the recommendations. Our experience across multiple projects shows that this thinking is perpetuating an approach to implementation that is more likely to result in failed projects, partially delivered improvements and low benefit realisation.

Multiple functions & Executive ‘sell-in’

A single organisational function such as marketing or customer service typically originates initiatives in customer management. The intent may start as a desire to enhance capability within that function alone, but rarely is it that simple. Customer management is a business ‘system’. Improving customer management capability usually requires multiple teams, often across functions, to collaborate changing not only how they work within the team, but also the hand-offs between teams. As a result, managers with an objective to improve effectiveness and/or efficiency in customer management can rarely succeed without involving other functions, which requires senior level buy-in and support.

The typical project approach is to develop a proposed solution, then to attempt to ‘sell it’ to the leadership team. This approach rarely succeeds because; unless senior executives see the bigger picture, they do not often recognise the worth of making capability changes. Even when the project has an executive sponsor, involves people from multiple functions in the design and includes a comprehensive stakeholder engagement and communication programme, executives’ tend to reserve engagement until they feel the impact – when they may react badly and not support changes, which usually delay implementation, dilute benefit and compromise benefit realisation.

To help executives see the bigger picture and engage earlier with the recommended solution, it is important to involve them in shaping and articulating the vision. This provides them with a common context for the broad customer capabilities required and builds recognition that change needs to be managed to ensure the attitudes, beliefs and skills of the individuals involved are understood and managed along with the ‘content’ of the solution

Successful project design

  • Involve decision makers in direction setting to create alignment to a common vision

  • Build engagement and support by involving real ‘influencers’ in the solution design

  • Address the entire business system

  • Recognise the need to manage people through the changes

  • Deliver real and visible benefit at regular intervals

  • Do not consider ‘project’ is complete until changes becomes accepted as ‘business as usual’

In practical terms, if you are accountable or responsible for a project that is seeking to improve customer management capabilities, the start point should be to engage the leadership early. Get them to describe their vision of customer management and the implications this has for policies, people, processes (especially inter-functional), data and IT. This will often be the first time they have considered the full implications as a team. Leadership aligned to a common vision gives you (and your colleagues from other functions) a solid basis for your project and dramatically reduces the risk of rejection of the recommended solution when the leaders see it.

tcf change process resized 600


As described in the diagram, design the solution by identifying the capability improvements needed to achieve the vision. Involvement of the leaders (in setting the vision) markedly increases the likelihood of project approval. Similarly, executives’ attention is always sharper when the project can quantify the financial value (at least the ‘scale’ of benefit) of achieving the vision. Linking vision to capability improvements to value creates a compelling business rationale.

Building an understanding of the way the organisation approaches and adopts changes to the way things are done ensures that the implementation plan is realistic, improving the likelihood of successful and sustainable adoption of the improvements and realisation of the benefits.

Please do post any comments to the thoughts expressed here, or contact me ([email protected]) for further information.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Andy Green
Andy Green is a Director of The Customer Framework. Andy specialises in blending socially enabled customer management strategy with the practical design and delivery of implementation programmes which deliver real and sustainable financial benefit. He has led Customer Management programmes, as both a client and a consultant, in many industry sectors including travel & hospitality, telecoms, manufacturing, financial services, luxury, CPG, pharmaceuticals and retail.

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