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Published on October 3rd, 2006 | by Rahel Bailie


Dear Executive: This comes with your endorsement

How does executive endorsement drive organizational change for success? Guest author Emma Hamer of eHamer Associates explains.

When the proposal to go forward with the preparation and implementation of a content management project is put to the executive team, and the business imperative is clear, executive endorsement of the project is required for the project to move to active status.

This article is not about getting executive sponsorship, or buy-in; we assume you already have moved past that particular hurdle. Rather, it is about the need to explain in some detail what exactly executive endorsement means. Why is this important? Because unlike many other corporate initiatives or software investments, the implications of a migration to a content management system stretch far beyond the initial investment.

In general, executive teams are focused on the higher-level aspects of a proposal. Their role is to evaluate why a content management system makes sense for the organization. They will, of course, weigh costs and anticipated benefits, and are able to do so without needing to know exactly how this new system works. After all, that is why they have line managers, to do the research and prepare the proposal for a decision. The decision to endorse a CM project is generally, from the executive point of view, financial.

Consider the tension between three sides of a triangle – one side is People & Performance, a second side is New Technology, and the third side is New Procedures. The interplay between new technology (the CM system), new procedures (protocols to create and manage content), and people must be balanced, or there is no triangle. The aspect that often, unfortunately, gets little or no consideration, is that of adoption/acceptance by the people who work with, or whose work is impacted by, the new system. And those people are scattered throughout the organization.

In order to prevent disappointment further down the road, or to be held accountable for events over which you have no control, you need to explain and clarify what may not be so obvious to your executive team. Besides releasing the funds to purchase, configure and implement the CM system, here are the non-financial consequences of “executive endorsement”:

  1. Championing change management throughout the organization.
  2. Enforcing compliance with new business processes from adjunct departments
  3. Helping transition lost employees

To elaborate on each of these points:

  1. Championing change management often literally means leading by example – communicating very clearly and unambiguously to the entire organization that change is happening, why it is happening, and how it will benefit the company and the individual employees. Combine this with visible displays of conforming to the new rules, and it will be perceived as genuine enthusiasm for the new system.
  2. Enforcing compliance with new procedures means cracking down on the departments that circumvent new procedures, or find work-arounds. Again, communicating very clearly and unambiguously that non-compliance with procedures will be viewed as an individual performance issue, and will not be tolerated. If it is a matter of training, then training will be provided, but if it is simply stubborn clinging to the old way of doing things, then it must stop. Here too, the executives must understand that they should put their money where their mouths are; they must be seen complying with new procedures.
  3. Finally, helping transition “lost” employees. As with any project that significantly impacts the organization, cutting across departmental boundaries and upsetting the established order of things, some will not be able to make the necessary skills adjustments and/or behavioural changes, no matter how much training they receive. Finding ways to deploy these people in other areas of the company, or helping them transition to another job or workplace, is not only the kind thing to do, it is the only responsible thing to do.

If there is insufficient appreciation of the need for executive involvement in these three areas, the CMS project already has an albatross hanging around its neck before it has formally started. It makes so much more sense to prepare the executive for their involvement, than to bear the brunt of their displeasure when things go wrong. Call it Murphy’s Law, because without executive involvement with and support of the change process, things will go wrong. The implications, and the related financial consequences, of not securing executive support for managing the real changes may become so overwhelming that the executive decides to cut their losses, and the project is shut down before completion. What a waste that would be.

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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