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.
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.