The Missing Link in Change: Owner Readiness

My daughter and I cheerily rolled up to the check-in desk at the airport and proclaimed our destination: Tokyo! Five minutes later our glee turned to gloom as we learned that three COVID vaccinations were required. Alexia had just two.

“Does the airport still offer on-site shots?” I asked, hopefully.

“I’m sorry, no.”

Have you ever felt that your organization pulled the plug on support for a major change before it was fully dialed in? We certainly felt that way.

Last week, I dove into the critical role of leaders as sustainers of change using the almighty check-in. There is another aspect of readiness that is often missed: Owner Readiness.

At some point, the project team shuts down and moves on. Seconded experts return to their units. The leader of the change transfers or is promoted to another position.

These are normal as projects move from implementation to steady-state. However, issues are likely to arise, and many of those issues have a business component that cannot be answered by a help desk. Changes require an owner who will persist well beyond going live and the initial warranty period (typically 1 to 3 months).

If you are leading a change, you need to answer the following:

  • If the business requires another shift in the process or technology, how do we request it? Who will validate it?
  • If there is an exception to the process, who do employees ask for direction?
  • Who will review the process or tech to ensure it’s still current when business circumstances change?
  • Who will maintain documentation and training materials?
  • How will the change be integrated into other related processes, such as onboarding?

These decisions are required before the project team exits. If employees don’t have the answers, carefully crafted changes can begin to break down, and employees revert to previous ways of working.

The airport didn’t have the vaccination service, but they knew where to direct us, and after rushing out to a local pharmacy with fingers crossed that they had the vaccine in stock, my daughter and I were back on track for our adventure.

During transitions, we don’t have to have all of the solutions to problems, but we must ensure that there is an owner who can direct people to the answers they need.

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