The message wasn’t getting through. Top leadership couldn’t get frontline clerks to follow through on changes required to implement the court case management system successfully. It was tough communicating geographically across this major metropolitan jurisdiction of courthouses distributed over roughly 2,500 square miles. Even if the presiding judge could easily reach individual judges, they didn’t necessarily cooperate. The voters elected them, so the electorate determined each judges’ future, not the presiding judge.
I met with the presiding judge and offered to help her determine how to overcome the communication problem.
The presiding judge created a project chain of sponsorship. The presiding judge, the Authorizing Sponsor, had the formal and informal authority to legitimize the court’s undertaking of the project, like approving funding, allocating staff, setting project priorities, and so on. The court’s subordinate leaders, who report to the presiding judge, form a chain of Reinforcing Sponsors, strengthening and upholding the Authorizing Sponsor at every hierarchical level within the court. So, the chain of sponsorship included the presiding judge, the court administrators, the judges at each courthouse, and frontline clerks responsible for day-to-day caseload management. I interviewed them all.
Oddly, the judges at individual courthouses and their clerks knew little about project expectations. It was if there was a region in the chain of sponsorship, the administrators, which was a black hole. Information went in, but nothing ever came out of it.
The presiding judge created the regional court administrator position and made them responsible for multiple courthouses organized by geographic area. The regional administrators received information from the presiding judge and went directly to the clerks. The clerks ignored the administrators because they reported to their individual judges. If the clerks attempted to comply with the administrators, the judges promptly stopped anything the clerks did because they were unaware of the information communicated by the administrators.
After one of the presiding judge’s meetings with the court administrators, I organized subsequent meetings by geographic area, including each region’s administrator, judges, and clerks. During these meetings, I asked the regional administrator to communicate the presiding judge’s project expectations to the local judges and their clerks. Routinely repeating these regional meetings shed light on how the administrators, judges, and frontline clerks could work together on executing changes required for project success. It was the missing link in the chain of sponsorship.