The more an initiative’s makeup reflects being “in crisis,” the greater the likelihood of failure, the lower the quality of results and the longer it takes to reach intended outcomes. To compensate for these risks, sponsors who succeed with change typically ensure that more attention/resources (mindshare, knowledge, skill, money, people, courage, and discipline) are allotted to these endeavors.

Fortunately, there is a clear pattern for leaders who consistently achieve their change goals. They insist on Degree-of-Difficulty-type ratings (obviously, it is not necessary to use the Conner Partners tool to accomplish this) and the appropriate discussions for all initiatives requiring their approval. With this information, they can either: 1) allocate the proper attention/resources needed to succeed, 2) make a decision to reduce the overall rating to a range requiring less attention/resources (by lowering the burden of one or more of the three criteria), or 3) decide not to move the initiative forward.


Leaders who tend to fail at their initiatives also display a distinct pattern. They either:1)  do not include Degree of Difficulty ratings and discussions as part of their due diligence for approving projects, 2) sanction initiatives naively thinking that there is an unlimited amount of mindshare/resources that can be applied to change, or 3) sanction initiatives despite knowing that projects require more attention/resources than will be allocated.

It is clearly possible to increase the likelihood change projects reach full realization. It starts with making informed decisions about whether an endeavor is in crisis—hopefully early enough to allocate the attention and resources needed to prevent or minimize as many risks to intended results as possible. Our role as internal and external practitioners is to encourage this kind of due diligence before suggesting to sponsors that our implementation expertise be deployed. I believe taking this position will increase our credibility and trust with sponsors.

INVITATION TO DIALOGUE: I have offered some of my perspectives on this issue and an assessment tool we use at Conner Partners to help address the problem. What are your thoughts on how our credibility as change practitioners is affected when we appear to be too willing to apply our implementation assistance skills? What impact do you think this has on our relationships with sponsors? What approaches or tools do you use?

Go to the beginning of this series.

Next series: Sponsorship