The Sponsor’s Role In Change

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The sponsor of change is a senior officer, one who holds the organizational power to legitimize the change.  This person knows when the time has come for change and has the confidence and strength to do something about it.  The sponsor goes forth and leads—overcoming obstacles, finding truth, and sharing knowledge.  Significant organizational change will not occur unless those who legitimize or mandate the change demonstrate FULL commitment to the task.  Here is a brief section from a comprehensive white paper:

 Characteristics of Effective Sponsors

  • Dissatisfaction with the Present State

The effective sponsor will be consistently aware that the organization cannot afford to fail at the change because the status quo is too costly

  •  Clear Definition of the Change

The sponsor has as clear a picture as possible of the desired state.  A clear vision also focuses and mobilizes the targets.

  •  Strong Belief that Change Will Occur

The sponsor believes that the particular remedy undertaken is the one that will relieve the organization’s pain. 

  • Organizational Impact of the Change

A change in one area of the organization significantly impacts other areas.  Effective sponsors must understand the complex web of relationships that comprise their organization and understand how the proposed change will affect these areas.

  •  Human Impact of Change

Effective sponsors understand the implications of their decisions in terms of the effects on people and their workloads throughout the organization.

  •    Scope of the Change

The effective sponsor understands how broad or narrow the ranges of responses are among those to be affected by the change decision.    Effective sponsors acknowledge the role of synergy in change and build resilient teams to create that synergy.

  •  Amount of Resources Necessary for Change and Commitment of Those Resources

The sponsor must be willing to allocate the financial, human, and technical resources required to make the change occur.  A common mistake is that sponsors underestimate the time, money, and people resources necessary for the implementation of change.

  •  Demonstration of Public Commitment

Sponsors must manifest commitment publicly so targets know their sponsors are not acting arbitrarily or without support from above.  This is an effect of sponsorship being cascaded down the organization with the targets having knowledge that the change has been legitimized at the top.

  •  Strong Private Support

The sponsor meets privately with key individuals/groups throughout the change process to ensure their continued support for the change.  This is the skillful influencing that goes on behind the scenes that communicates that the sponsor is not just paying lip service to the change project.

  •  Consequence Management

This is the system of rewards and punishments that an organization uses to sanction change.  What is measured in organizations is what is rewarded in those same organizations.  Effective sponsors will identify the “heroes” who can be publicly rewarded and the “heretics” who can be publicly burned at the stake as a signal to the organization. 

  •  Monitoring Procedures

Periodic reviews of progress toward change objectives are essential.  This helps to identify implementation problems early so that they can be ameliorated or eliminated.

  •  Commitment to Sacrifice

The effective sponsor understands that the costs for success are real and leads the way in paying them, thereby establishing a normative behavior that calls for sacrifice when the price of failure is prohibitive.

  • Sustained Support

The effective sponsor will engage in all of the aforementioned activities for as long as it takes to successfully implement the change and avoid short-term gains that are off the strategic path or will consume resources. 

Clearly, this is the most Critical Success Factor in any change effort.  If you would like to receive a copy of the complete white paper on this topic, please contact us.  You can also contact us for a free assessment of your current initiative or project.


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Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.


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