Why are Sponsors Essential for Change?

It is well known that leadership is needed for projects to succeed. Leaders will often supply the budget and other resources, outline the strategy and scope and provide the timing and dates of the project. Whilst these executive decisions are important for a project, they do not guarantee success.

Sponsorship has been number one on the list of top contributors in all of Prosci’s benchmarking reports since 1998. It has a direct impact on whether projects meet their objectives. In fact, projects with extremely effective sponsors were three times as likely to meet or exceed their objectives than those with very ineffective sponsors.

So how is sponsorship different to leadership? There are 3 key roles that participants of Prosci’s Best Practices Research have identified for sponsors. They are: active and visible sponsorship, communicating directly and building a coalition.

Active and Visible Sponsorship

There are 2 ways a sponsor can display active and visible behaviours: supporting the team and championing the change. Examples of how a sponsor can support the team include: proactively removing obstacles for the change management team, providing resources and budget and understanding the whole change process, the impact of the process and the desired future state it aims to produce. Your sponsor may find these easier to do as they are similar to the executive decisions mentioned above. However, championing the change may feel slightly more alien to your sponsor. It requires the sponsor to actively support the change management work, methodology and practices, whilst owning the change, and participating in change activities and messages. By championing the change sponsors should be building excitement and enthusiasm for it and becoming one of the first adopters of the new way of working (if possible).

This will begin to increase the profile of the change, as individuals across the organisation begin to see the new ways of working role modelled by a leader.

Communicating directly

In turn, the sponsor communicating directly with the impacted groups will also increase the profile and begin to add understanding about the change. Here, the word directly is important. Face to face is the best way to communicate and where possible should be used. Leaders should not shy away from ‘getting out there’ and meeting with those impacted. Whilst executive and senior leaders are the preferred senders of organisational messages, caution must be taken here. If you have not worked with a sponsor before, discussing the content of face to face communications is important. Just because the sponsor understands the ‘management speak’ used to describe the change, doesn’t necessarily mean that the frontline employees will.

  • There are some further tips to help communicate directly, these are:
  • Communicate the end vision
  • Create awareness about the specifics and the need for change
  • Advocate the change
  • Vocally support the change
  • Explain the ‘what’s in it for me?’ (WIIFM)

Building a Coalition

Your sponsor will not always be able to spend their time communicating the change, and although they shouldn’t delegate all of their responsibilities, they can build a coalition of sponsorship to support their role. This will ensure that engagement with the change is amplified across the organisation, creating a network of change agents who can advocate for the change. Developing the coalition will cultivate management support for the change and encourage senior leaders to participate and support the change, gradually increasing adoption and usage.

How can I learn more?

Join us for our free webinar on Wednesday 29th May “How to Engage sponsors” to learn how to enlist with context and language, engage in a symbiotic relationship, and empower by building competencies, the leaders you need to step up as great sponsors. Register here.

CMC Partnership also delivers a Prosci® Sponsor Briefing which equips executives and senior leadership teams with the skills and techniques to lead and sponsor successful organisational change.

Over the course of the Briefing your Executive Team learn about:

  • The connection between Change Management and financial performance
  • The Prosci® ADKAR model
  • Role of sponsors in change
  • What messages your employees want to hear from you.

Find out more about CMC’s Prosci® Training, enquire using our contact form below, or call the CMC Prosci Team 01600 40023.