Author: Florian Puschmann, PMP
I recently came across one of the classic reads on change management: Switch – How to change things when change is hard by Chip & Dan Heath. Picking up the book was both enjoyable and instructive.
The Heath brothers' framework consists of three elements:
- The driver - the rational mind
- The elephant - the emotional side
- Shaping the path - providing explicit instructions on how to implement the change
This simple framework is highly instructive as it is a powerful reminder that providing facts alone won't convince anyone. It is even less likely to lead to the needed or desired change. As put by the author and entrepreneur Seth Godin:
"No spreadsheet, no bibliography, and no list of resources is sufficient proof to someone who chooses not to believe. The skeptic will always find a reason, even if it's one the rest of us don't think is a good one. Relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission – which is emotional connection."
One of the many compelling examples provided by the Heath brothers is an executive at a large manufacturing company who identified a significant opportunity for cost saving through the procurement process harmonization of various items used by the company.
Frustrated by not getting any traction by appealing to the driver only or, more explicitly, making the case with numbers, tables, and forecasts to his peers, he changes his approach.
First, he tasks a summer intern to pick one item procured by all company sites, which turns out to be protective gloves.
Next, the student physically tracks down all 424 gloves procured from various suppliers.
Finally, for every glove, the student tracks down the price paid and labels each glove with a price tag.
As it turns out, many of them are the same glove, sometimes sold for $5 or $17 by different suppliers.
The next time the executive makes the case to his peers, he invites them to the conference room. He covers the entire conference table with all 424 gloves informing his colleagues that, yes, these are all the different gloves at drastically different prices that the company is procuring. After he allowed his peers to wander around the table and pick up and evaluate this "glove shrine" in disbelief and shock, he finally engaged their emotional side, "the elephant." This enabled him to get commitment and buy-in for the path he shaped on how to initiate and realize a procurement change initiative to capitalize on the saving opportunity in front of their eyes.
Personally, I experienced this effect of building an emotional connection to the change many times, driving innovation or improvement projects for customers. Although it typically always made sense “running the numbers”, the most effective way to get the project underway was to bring all key stakeholders into one physical place and let them hands-on experience the new innovation or problem to build an emotional connection. Only then did most projects get buy-in and traction.
However, what does this all have to do with sponsoring? In a world with fierce competition for attention, sponsoring opportunities big and small offer a great sponsor a great platform to emotionally engage project managers in various industries to initiate or drive change.
Examples of such opportunities are the events scheduled throughout the year and the yearly hosted PMI Switzerland conference. And normally, the story would end here but … We realized that sponsoring was not only about events. It can be much more.
Our sponsoring strategy, designed in 2021, is based on numbers, tables and forecasts. Making sure the “driver” is on board matters, of course. However, to drive engagement, we decided in 2022 to also focus on the elephant - the emotional side. We started developing relationships with other partners interested in project management and fueling change in line with our vision to build an engaged community. Today we are a team of 12 (and growing) working on developing engagement with for-profit corporations and non-profit organizations such as NGOs or universities, allowing communities to build their power skills further.
Thus our 2023 sponsoring strategy will continue the focus on both the driver and the elephant to enable members to thrive in the environment of change at an ever-increasing rate.