Creating Spend Management Change Super Heroes

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Jim Heininger, Founder of Dixon|James Communications.

Success of spend management initiatives, especially in those settings where leadership doesn't apply mandates to require adoption and compliance, requires a team what can effectively persuade stakeholders to the benefits and value of new procurement approaches. In these settings, change management trumps technology and process. Team members must actively campaign on behalf of the effort.

Here are some important steps to help groom your team members to become super change agents:

  • Align Around a Manifesto -- Clearly state their roles and responsibilities, addressing the important characteristics that all change agents must display for success. A sample manifesto we created for one client reads:

    Change occurs when we can successfully and compellingly tell our reason for being, our value.

    Successful change agents are...positive, consistent, keep the end goal in mind, set the big picture, have proof of the desired results, understand what motivates or discourages people.

    They possess the insight to recognize the problem, the sensitivity to see its importance to those involved, the courage to take honest and often difficult measures to resolve it, and, the credibility to be heard.

  • Understand Change Management Principles -- Educate the team on the fundamentals of change management. An especially reliable model is the ADKAR philosophy from PROSCI that identifies the building blocks of engagement to address the "people side" of change:
    • Awareness for the need for change
    • Desires to participate and support the change
    • Knowledge on who to change
    • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
    • Reinforcement to sustain the change

    Each step must be achieved with stakeholders before they can advance to the next level. With this background, fully identify all the potential areas of resistance you may experience and what enables those pockets of dissenters. The team needs to fully understand the playing field so they can work on their feet addressing pushback.

    Organizations don't change, people do. So team members must appreciate the need to provide not only facts, but to address the underlying emotional hesitations people have to change. This is only created through transparency and dialog.

  • Create a Common Understanding of the Change Challenges -- Identity and discuss the unique cultural and structural obstacles that your company presents to the success of the any new initiatives. Provide specific direction on how these challenges should be address in outreach and communications. Also address specific challenges relative to procurement initiatives that address how purchasing roles have been structured around the organization.
  • Equip Them With An Effective Tool Kit -- Provide the team with the necessary tools to champion the initiative:
    • Messages -- Develop airtight messages that the team can consistently use to build a common understanding of the value of the initiative. This includes a common set of answers to frequently asked questions or challenges you expect to encounter.
    • Brand Guidelines -- Outline the correct usage of programs names, logos, the look of materials and presentations, intranet sites, etc. Assign someone to serve as brand cop to make sure that a consistent and powerful look is maintained.
    • Communications Tools -- Fact sheets, presentations, quotes of support from leadership which can be used repeatedly, best practices that highlight the opportunity to change, etc.

  • Provide Continuous Coaching -- The only way you can confidently ensure that team members stay on message and effectively employ change management approaches is to practice, in front of you. Until an individual vocalizes these techniques, they'll never be comfortable utilizing them. We've held group training sessions to walk team members through all the different cultural and structural obstacles to their spend management initiative, addressing how to resolve them through collaborative dialog with resisters in their company.
  • Heap on Rewards -- Recognize team members who step up to the challenge and efficiently manager stakeholder's perceptions on the initiative's values. Encouraging this behavior in front of other team members will only result in more.
  • Foster a Supportive Environment -- Make change management progress a part of every regular team meeting agenda so that members can share success with others and, more importantly, help brainstorm solutions to unique challenges people face.

How else do you create an environment that facilitates change management success? Leave a comment with any more insight you may have.

- Jim Heininger, Founder, Dixon|James Communications

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Voices (5)

  1. Kelly Barner:

    Very interesting post – When it comes to being successful at change management, or any of the other things supply management professionals are regularly expected to do (collaborating with suppliers, playing nice with finance, keeping internal stakeholders happy) the key is one line from your post:

    "Change occurs when we can successfully and compellingly tell our reason for being, our value."

    Any group trying to meet goals needs to successfully meet them AND ALSO communicate those results to the organization. The same is true for explaining the benefits of a system or a process. Being up against previous failed attempts doesn’t make the situation any easier, because our audience may be event less willing to listen than usual. Any plans we make to alter our role requires both planning for the change and a deliberate strategy for communicating the rationale and benefits.

  2. The Borg:

    Assimilate or Die

  3. The Borg:

    Assimilate or Die

  4. bitter and twisted:

    very nice…but what if the "resiters" are right?

  5. John Shaw:

    Great post Jim! I’m also an advocate of ADKAR. It is simple, yet effective.
    A personal insight I’ve arrived at is the importance of having an underlying structure of continuous measurement covering how change is progressing. This provides the leadership team with the information they need to Heap on Awards and Provide Continuous coaching at the right place and time.
    My wife and I are training a puppy and the trainer is heavily emphasizing ‘immediately marking good and bad behaviors’. While I’m DEFINITELY not implying that people are dogs, there is a change management parallel here. Good measurement let’s management quickly reward success and remove barriers before they become systematic problems.

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