Sponsorship Is the Single Most Important Factor in Change Success
"Without effective and proactive sponsorship the change project will eventually fail, the change will not be adopted by the employees nor be sustained, and it will not deliver the intended benefits"
Well over a decade ago while delivering change, transformation, and improvement programmes I analysed why important strategic initiatives were not as successful as they should have been. Even if these initiatives were critical to the organisation’s success and competitive advantage, they were not fully implemented to provide sustainable change, benefits realisation, and employee adoption. In my early career, I thought that as long as I was leading a good team and the initiative was important to the organisation, then I would not need the support of a sponsor and the leadership. Let me use the three-legged stool metaphor: leg 1 - the team and I, leg 2 - the important critical initiative to the organisation, and leg 3 - the sponsors and leadership team. I used to think if I had a good team, a good project plan, engaged the stakeholders tenaciously and the initiative was important then, with the right effort, strategic execution would naturally happen. A three-leg stool will not wobble but remove one of the legs and you will balance for a while but eventually the stool will fall over. Similar to the stool, without effective and proactive sponsorship the change project will eventually fail, the change will not be adopted by the employees nor be sustained, and it will not deliver the intended benefits.
The change sponsor performs three critical Leadership of Change® responsibilities to enable change projects to be successful. These three critical responsibilities are: Say, Support and Sustain to ensure sustainable change. These responsibilities are further broken down into sub tasks and activities.
Responsibility 1: Say - Communicate the Change.
Say is the foundation of change sponsorship, the change sponsor should articulate the strategy, be the face of the change and communicate constantly
The first responsibility for the sponsor in implementing their organisation’s change is to ‘Say - communicate the change’. Say is the foundation of change sponsorship, and the sponsor should articulate the change strategy, be the face of the change and communicate the change constantly. This first change sponsorship responsibility is about communicating the change programme to the impacted stakeholders, explaining the business case for change and outlining the benefits for the organisation and employees, if the change programme is to be successfully delivered.
Responsibility 2: Support - Provide Resources, Engage and Coach.
Support is about change execution, the change sponsor should provide quality resources, engage and coach the organisation
The second main responsibility for the sponsor in implementing their organisation’s change is to ‘Support - Provide Resources, Engage and Coach’. Support builds on the previous responsibility, Say from the Plan phase. The focus is now on the Execute phase and in implementing the change. The sponsor will be responsible for providing competent resources to the change programme, engaging the impacted stakeholders across the organisation and coaching the organisation and employees through the change, ensuring they are ready to adopt the new way of working.
Responsibility 3 Sustain - Intervene, Reward, and Embed.
Sustain is the final critical change sponsorship responsibility, the change sponsor should intervene to ensure adoption, reward positive behaviour and embed the new way
It is always impressive when the sponsor gets to this stage in a change programme. The sponsor will have successfully completed their first two responsibilities, Say - communicate the change, and Support - provide resources, engage and coach. The final responsibility for the sponsor in fully implementing their organisation’s change is Sustain - reward, intervene and embed. While the change team and leaders may be feeling some change fatigue, this responsibility must be completed fully and with diligence. The leadership team must therefore support the sponsor to effectively and proactively intervene to ensure sustainable change.
This blog is based on my book: Change Management Sponsorship - Leadership of Change Volume 7
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Peter consults, speaks, and writes on the Leadership of Change®.
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Peter F Gallagher is a Change Management Global Thought Leader, Guru, Expert, International Speaker, Author and Leadership Alignment Coach.
Listed #1 by leadersHum Top 40 Change Management Gurus You Should Follow in 2022 (Mar 2022).
Ranked #1 Change Management Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Change Management (May 2021 & 2020) by Thinkers360.
Ranked #2 Business Strategy Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Change Management (Dec 2020) by Thinkers360.
Ranked #2 Leadership Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Leadership (Aug 2020) by Thinkers360.
Business Book Ranking
Change Management Behaviour - Leadership of Change® Volume 6, listed among the 50 Books from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders to read in 2022.
Change Management Adoption - Leadership of Change® Volume 5, listed among year-to-date’s (Jul 2021) most popular books on business and technology from Thinkers360 member thought leaders.
Change Management Handbook - Leadership of Change® Volume 3, listed among the 50 Business and Technology Books from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders to read in 2021.
Change Management Pocket Guide - Leadership of Change® Volume 2, ranked within the top 50 Business and Technology Books (Jan 2020) from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders.