… a Question of Sponsorship

Sep 15, 2010 3 Comments by

Following up on the post earlier this week about Sponsorship, I wanted to get your opinions on the following question which I first posed a few weeks ago.

What do sponsors of change need to do in order to be successful?

You may click multiple items and your comments would be especially helpful.

After you vote, let’s consider the impact of your answers.

What's the most important thing a Change Sponsor can do to ensure a change is successful?

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How did you answer? Of course it’s a bit of a trick question since all of the answers can have a positive impact on the Sponsor’s role, and carried to an extreme they can hurt.  After you vote, consider what the responses above might mean for your project… What if your Change Sponsor is doing what’s described or if they are specifically not doing what you need them to do?  Here are some potential impacts:

  1. Fund it. Provide the resources needed to do it right. Of course one of the reasons you engage Sponsors is to get resources for your change.  The best Sponsors don’t just write a blank check, they actually require a solid rationale/business case for the change and they back that rationale with an investment.  The opposite situation occurs when a Sponsor doesn’t actually believe in the case for change and uses their control of the purse strings to undermine the initiative.
  2. Talk about it. Make it clear that they support it by saying so. Your most effective Sponsors will get out on the stump to make your case…

    Be honest: not EVERYTHING about your change is going to be great... and eventually stakeholders will figure that out!

    They don’t just believe in it, they help you by encouraging others to “get it”.  Look for places where you can get your Sponsor in front of employees telling true stories about the impact that the change will have.  Remember: Don’t let them preach only about the promises of sunshine… Be honest about the negatives your change might bring too.

  3. Stay out of the way. Let the team make the change happen. The upside: Giving the team some space to succeed on their own creates confidence. It also builds morale and respect between team members when they work through issues without running to the Boss.  The downside of a Sponsor who stays out of the way could be a perception that they’re not interested in the change or that they are distancing themselves from it in case the whole thing blows up!
  4. Dig in. Understand the details and get involved in the project. Sponsors who dig in can be great to work for – they understand what’s going on at all levels and they can resolve issues as they get escalated because they know the strategic context as well as the detail.  The risk: “Hands-On” Sponsors can be seen as micromanaging the change effort.  One good way to know if you are balancing this well as a Sponsor is to ask team members and stakeholders two questions: “Are you getting what you need from me?” and “Do you feel you have the right level of autonomy to get your work done?
  5. Something else.  There are a million things we ask Sponsors to do – and two million impacts if your needs as a Change Agent are not being met.  Let’s see what suggestions you offer to this post and we’ll go from there with ideas to address them.


Questions for Chatter:

  1. What other things can Sponsors do to make Change successful?

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3 Responses to “… a Question of Sponsorship”

  1. Joe says:

    I’d have to agree with Kirby, first off.

    I guess the nature of one’s team would be the largest factor in deciding how the sponsor should approach leadership. A group of frustrated, hesitant, or downright hopeless member would benefit greatly from a change agent who will get his hands dirty.

    On the other hand, a team of confident individuals may appreciate a hands-off consultant. Tell them what to do, take a step back, and come back later to evaluate progress.

    Above all else, however, the sponsor needs to be the most confident person about the change as a whole. Morale will be an inevitable obstacle if the agent in charge lacks a vision of success!

  2. Ken says:

    Sadly, sponsors who totally fail to show up are a problem so I’d vote for “show up”

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