Leadership

Champions, Change Agents and Change Advocates

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Champions, Change Agents and Change Advocates are people within the organisation who are knowledgeable about a change initiative, who promote and support it, and with whom employees and stakeholders can direct their questions and concerns.

They form a bridge between the change initiative (and its management team) and the organisation, and are an important conduit for communication in both directions.

Each Champion, Change Agent and Change Advocate may be assigned to a part of the organisation (or stakeholder group) with which they have familiarity and where they are well regarded and respected.

Why is this important?

The Champion (or Change Agent, Change Advocate) are essentially the face of the project.

Over time it’s common for people who work with the Champion to directly approach the Champion with issues, concerns, advice etc. Such dialogue is encouraged as it assists the project understand the temperament and responses of the business in a specific area or to a specific issue or initiative or to the Project in general.

The Champion is a confidante with whom most issues and concerns can be raised.

When do you do it?

The Champion (or Change Agent, Change Advocate) structure should be established shortly after the Business Review Group or the project’s governing body has been established.

The Champion and advocacy strategy should be incorporated into both the project Business Case and the Project Plan.

Things to watch out for

Do I need Champions if my organisation is not large?

If your organisation has a number of offices located in different regions, within a city or country or overseas, you will require some form of representation and advocacy of the change initiative in those areas, assuming the change initiative impacts those areas.

Based on your experience, you may be of the view that you can communicate to your organisation without designated advocates. Although this is certainly possible, the use of Champions and advocates is a risk-management strategy. If the stakes are high and the importance of delivering the change initiative critical, then using Champion and advocates may be a way of protecting the promise that the change initiative is intended to deliver.

Champion’s / Advocate’s Activities / Roles

The role of the Champion, (or Change Agent, Change Advocate) is to:

  • Provide information relevant to the Champion’s designated area and/or responsibility to the Project;
  • Help coordinate certain Project-related activities; e.g. provide information to the Testing Manager regarding the best business testing resources or assist the Training Manager to determine the type of training that may be required and to provide the names of people to be trained;
  • Provide team dynamic information to the Change Manager; e.g. the culture of a particular area;
  • Assist in the dissemination of information;
  • Review and comment on certain deliverables; e.g. the Communications Approach and Schedule;
  • Provide feedback to the Change Manager regarding effectiveness of certain Project related activities; e.g. of communications;
  • Provide formal and informal feedback to their Project Management Group (BRG) representative regarding the project;

In addition, certain champions may be nominated as the Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) in specific activities or knowledge areas in order to act as the go-to person for other people in the business on project-related issues.

This role becomes particularly important after project implementation has been completed and been handed over to the business and users.

Recommended Characteristics

Although the characteristics of the Champion, (or Change Agent, Change Advocate) may vary to suit the nature of the project, a general set of requirements may include:

  • Needs to be experienced in the business, where experience depends on the role played and area of the organisation involved; e.g. this may be minimum three years in a specific role;
  • Must have a proactive style;
  • Should be a well-respected individual by:
    • Peers
    • Those who work for him/her
    • Those to whom the Champion reports
  • Should be flexible: e.g. understands that some aspects of the project solution may change due to circumstances outside the control of the project;
  • Will have excellent people skills;
  • Will be a strong advocate of the project.

Time requirement

This is clearly dependent on the nature of the Change Initiative and the number of people who the advocate represents. However as a guide, such a role would require approximately one to two hours per week on average.

This may take the form of:

    • Spending some time with one or more members of the Project Team
    • Participating in a group session; e.g. a workshop
    • Assisting the coordination of certain activities such as training
    • Gathering information on behalf of the Project Team
    • Updating colleagues
    • Communicating to target recipients or facilitating communications

From time to time the Champion may be asked to attend team meetings, the BRG or other special purpose meeting.

The Champion should be available to promptly answer emails or take calls from the Project Team.

There is a possibility that the Champion may remain involved after implementation to aid full absorption of the project.

The role of the Champion is more intensive than a Change agent or Change Advocate who generally are there to fulfil advocacy duties for the project rather than undertake specific work activities. They may also form an effective communications conduit (two-way) for the project.

How do you start?

The process that is generally successful is:

  1. Initially you must be able to understand the nature of the change initiative being proposed.
  2. Determine those areas of the organisation and on stakeholders upon which the change initiative will have an impact.
  3. Liaise with the heads of those areas to identify an appropriate Champion/s, Agent/s of Change and advocates.
  4. Speak with the nominees about the expectation on them of these roles and their desire and ability to perform them.
  5. Confirm with the heads of those areas the agreement of the individuals involved.
  6. Embed the Champion and Advocacy Strategy, with the names of agreed participants into the Project Business Case, Project Charter and Project Plan.

Resources

The people with prime responsibility for this part of the project include:

  • The Project Sponsor who must convince heads of impacted areas of the organisation and stakeholders to provide suitable resources to act as Project Champions, Change Agents and Advocates.
  • The Project Manager who must oversight the Champion and Advocacy Strategy.
  • The Change Manager who must develop the Champion and Advocacy Strategy and who must operationalize it.
  • Project Champions, Change Agents and Change Advocates

Deliverables

The principal document is the Champion and Advocacy Strategy, normally embedded into the Business Case, Project Charter and Project Plan.

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