Toolpack: organizational development, surveys, and change

Champions, sponsors, and other team roles

Over the years, organizational development consultants have found that the most high-performance change management and process improvement teams have some people who take on specific roles. Typically, when changes are to be implemented, the teams have a:

Champion - the person who takes responsibility for pushing a process through, garnering resources and buy-in from people and other departments. If there is no formal or informal champion, it is unlikely that the process will succeed. The champion has a personal involvement and stake in its success.

Sponsor - the sponsor may or may not be the same as the champion. The sponsor supports the team, helps to gain resources for it, and works to clear obstacles from its path. The sponsor may not be a team member, but should meet with them from time to time. Usually, the sponsor is from a higher level of management.

Team leader - the team leader, who can also be the champion or sponsor, chairs the team. This is a key function because the chair sets up and schedules meetings, arranges for correspondence, and does other necessary "administrivia." The team leader may need to work with the sponsor to gain more time from members. Usually, the team leader also manages team records and data. Good team leaders tend to take a low-key approach, letting the other team members carry the discussion, because as a team leader, they carry disproportionate weight. (Sponsors should do the same).

Link-pin - one of Rensis Likert's interesting contributions was the idea of the linkage-pin system of management, consisting of teams whose common members would provide linkage to each other. One member of the tea may be a linking pin to other teams, by having membership in and representational authority with another team. In some companies, this is the dominant structure and means of communication for teams. However, as far as we can tell, most teams do without a formal link-pin.

Process manager - the process manager can make or break a team. Though other functions can be combined, the process manager should stand alone. The process manager focuses on the way the team works, and, if needed, coaches other team members and leaders. The process manager should have some training in process consulting. The process manager often is called upon to be a content expert not in the areas being discussed, but in "people management" issues such as data collection, brainstorming, and data analysis methods. The most important part of the process manager's role, though, may be to encourage quieter participants to open up, to keep people focused on the subject, and to essentially ensure that everyone is involved, honest, and open. (How to do that).

All members of the team have important roles to play, including those who do not have a specifically designated role - for they are the fount of ideas, experience, skills, and perspectives, and make the work of the entire team viable or useless.

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