Project Management

Demystifying Sponsorship

From the Shifting Change: Insider Tips from Project Leaders Blog
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Today's world is influenced by change. Project managers and their organizations need to embrace and sometimes drive changes to keep up with the pace in highly competitive environments. In this blog, experienced professionals share their experiences, tips and tools to manage and exploit changes and take advantage of them. The blog is complimentary to the webinar series of the Change Management Community Team and is managed by the same individuals.

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Luisa Cristini
Nic Jain
Ruth Pearce
Abílio Neto
Vitaly Geyman
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Steve Salisbury
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Joseph Pusz
Kavitha Gunasekaran
Ronald Sharpe
Angela Montgomery
Carole Osterweil
Ross Wirth
Ryan Gottfredson
Tony Saldanha

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Categories: Sponsorship

Quite frequently I hear project managers or change agents on a project team express concern about a lack of sponsorship for their projects.  When I ask them what they need, however, they don’t always know how to articulate their concerns into a tangible need that an executive can act upon. 

Sponsors play three important roles.

  1. Participate directly in the project.
  2. Engage other sponsors.
  3. Communicate broadly throughout the organization.

Participating directly in the project: Sponsors hold people accountable to adapt to the change. They work with their staff to ensure people are ready for the change. Sponsors allocate staff, training, or other resources as required.  They also remove barriers to change by resolving issues and helping the organization adapt to risk.

Engage other sponsors.  Great sponsors engage other leaders to buy into and support the change. They build relationships across the organization to drive success. Sponsors equip other sponsors with communications, resources or other tools to help accomplish the purpose of the change. 

Communicate broadly throughout the organization. In my experience, this is the most overlooked yet often one of the easiest actions sponsors can take to affect change. They look for opportunities to talk about the change, the value of the change, and how the organization should engage to embrace the change. They also talk about the risk of not changing and the impact this might have on the organization’s long-term viability. Effective sponsors engage others in this dialog. It’s important that they not only share information, but that they listen to how the change is impacting their teams. This feedback can be a powerful influence, giving employees a method of adjusting how the change is implemented.

If you are a project manager or play a role as a change agent on a project team, be sure your sponsor is fulfilling these responsibilities. Oftentimes, sponsors need help understanding their role in change.  Most sponsors are smart leaders, but they have a full-time job running an organization and do not always know the details regarding how to support a change. You can help identify risks and issues. You provide insight to the sponsor about where greater engagement might be needed. You can also with communications, aligning leaders, and engaging the front-line in deploying the change.

It takes a village, as they say, and between well-equipped, active sponsors, and change agents on the project team, you have a much greater chance to enjoy success.


Posted by Steve Salisbury on: October 21, 2019 04:59 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Dear Steve
Interesting topic you covered in this topic
Thanks for sharing
How many projects were unsuccessful, will I even say real flops for lack of sponsors' support and involvement?

Very interesting., thanks for sharing

I am from Brazil. It is very commom you hear complaints about sponsors but what is the trouble or what is lacking attention is very hard to define. Tks for your texts.

Luis, of the projects I've been involved with, 100% of those with inadequate sponsorship failed. By failure, I mean missed budget, schedule or specifications. It's the number 1 predictor of success.

Diego, hopefully this gives you some ideas. In my work all over the world, I've seen lack of sponsorship. No country is exempt! Good luck to you.

Dear Steve
Thank you for sharing your experience in this domain.
happened to me the exact same thing

Thanks for sharing. Great Topic.

Thanks for giving us this interesting approach & sharing ur experience....

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