As we begin thinking about our change process, we may want to also start thinking about how we can create a governance structure that will encourage and mobilize people for the change, in a variety of roles. Effective governance for change can be flexible and temporary, have simultaneous, parallel hierarchies, and allow us to commit needed resources at the right times and places. While our governance for change can be temporary, we may want to keep some of the structure in place to support future change.
When creating our governance for change we can look at replacing/modifying certain roles, rather than creating a completely new governance structure. A good practice is to design our governance outside of the regular structure in order to ensure it will support the change initiative well and that we don’t simply replicate existing organizational structures.
That being said, we don’t want to duplicate effective, already existing fora. One of the ways to avoid this duplication is by leveraging existing governance bodies. This can allow us to capitalize on potential synergies/economies of scale, hopefully with only minor tweaks to the roles, as needed. One thing to keep in mind, however, is to assess the risk that these current governing bodies may not prioritize work (e.g., discussions and decisions) related to the change.
How can we set up effective change governance?
When setting up our governance for change, there are several areas we likely want to touch on early, including defining:
- Change leadership roles and responsibilities related to governance bodies
- The governance structure (and how it will work to mobilize people in support of the change)
- Decision-making procedures
- How the parallel structure will interact with regular operations (and minimize interference in them as much as is possible)
When deciding on roles for our governance structure, one best practice is to ensure there is vertical, horizontal and diagonal integration. By creating an integrated structure like this, we are well-placed to ensure cross-pollination across disciplines and levels, without overcommitting resources, and allowing the best flow of information, generation of ideas, action-taking, and decision-making. An additional benefit to this type of structure is that it allows us to expand or collapse our governance when necessary, while ensuring continuity, depending on where in the process the change initiative is at.
Our stakeholder list (see sections Section 2: Laying our foundation for successful change / Stakeholders and change and Section 4: Capacity, readiness and impact / Stakeholder impact assessment) can provide great inspiration to determine who (e.g., from which discipline or stakeholder group) should be involved in our governance for change and at what level (e.g., executive, manager, employee, or other stakeholders).
If the list of stakeholders has not been developed before we begin defining our governance for change, we can consider including stakeholders mentioned in the next paragraphs below, as appropriate. We can always fine-tune the governance once we have a full list of our stakeholders, and during the process as things evolve.
We can think of including internal disciplines such as IT, Finance, HR, program areas, corporate, and operations. This gives us a a good overview of the various components affecting or affected by the change through a multi-disciplinary approach (and membership).
It can also be very useful to include client representatives and end users in at least some of these governance bodies. Others, such as unions, central agencies, industry and academia should be considered, as appropriate, depending on the scope of the change.
One thing we can keep in mind as we consider who will be part of the governance structure is their level. If we have governance representatives regularly replaced by more junior members, our discussions can get bogged down in the weeds and lose their strategic value. This can also signal that our governance meeting schedule is too frequent and demanding to attract regular senior-level participation.
From time to time we may want to invite change team members and/or employees from stakeholder areas to attend and observe the governance meetings. This signals to them that this change is real, that it extends beyond just their own shop and that there are some serious resources behind it.
Depending on the complexity of our change, and where we sit in the change landscape, our governance may be a simple steering committee. Or, it may have multiple levels, with sub-committees made up of the key project teams reporting to a change leadership committee and possibly a small DM-ADM-level change steering committee guiding the overall effort.
We may want to include a senior executive decision-making body, steering committee, core working group, extended working group, sub working groups (to tackle specific aspects of the change initiative), as well as special task forces and tiger teams (that may report to either the core working group or the steering committee). The goal is to ensure maximum flexibility for the various groups, whether that is for the longer term or for specific time- or domain-limited tasks.
Co-chairs for working groups and governance bodies
Carefully selecting co-chairs can help us in a number of ways, including:
- Sending a signal to members that there is a broad coalition of support for the change
- Sending a signal to participants about the focus and direction of the change, and what may need to be amplified or downplayed (e.g., selecting a representative of the “end user” stakeholder group for a phase of the change focused on articulating users’ needs)
- Creating flexibility and continuity in the change timeline should one of the chairs be unable to attend a meeting
- Modelling an exchange of differing views from the co-chairs which can signal to members that it is culturally safe to express a diversity of opinion on a given issue
Beyond modeling diversity of opinion, co-chairs can consciously model the kind of leadership that the change requires for success, including challenging the status quo and current culture, suggesting bold actions to signal new ways of thinking and working, and cutting across legacy silos that were difficult to navigate prior to the change. A well-integrated governance for change will, in-and-of-itself, help deal with legacy silos and shift culture.
Conditions for success and rules of engagement
Another thing we can do to better ensure a successful outcome is to identify and establish our conditions for success and rules of engagement early in governance meetings. This is an opportunity to role-model and co-create the solution. If there is a place where the existing corporate culture will show up, it will be in governance conversations. If our change requires a shift in culture, then that shift should be made explicit in these discussions. Governance is a place where strategic levers to signal a culture change can be discussed and agreed on.
Change leadership capacity-building
This may be a good place for change leadership training and thought-provoking discussions. This can help set the tone and prepare leaders to develop the mindsets they need for leading complex change. This training could be conducted using a professional facilitator.
Frequency of governance meetings We also want to determine our frequency. How often should these governance bodies meet? We can try to balance the need for direction from governance with feedback to governance from the change team(s). Also, we can try to limit time required for governance to encourage active participation from senior players and to avoid “over direction” and bureaucracy creeping into our change agenda.