How Is Effective Change Sponsorship Different to Leadership?

    Jan 15, 2021 | Posted by Michael Campbell

    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. An effective executive sponsor can increase a project’s chances of achieving its intended business benefits from 25% to 85%, which is the reason the sponsor role can be considered as one of the most critical factors of successful change management.

    For individual client organisations CMC Partnership privately 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 this 6 hour Briefing your Executive Team learn about:

    • The connection between Change Management and financial performance
    • The Prosci® ADKAR model
    • How to position their change initiative for success
    • How to position their organisation for change success
    • How to position themselves for greater success

    This Prosci Sponsor briefing – often the trigger event to start a Board conversation about how to better change-enable the entire organisation - is delivered using data about the real, live change projects being led by the Executives in the room in order to provide relevancy, urgency and context for action. Register here. 

    Effective sponsorship of change is different to leadership or management. At a high level it requires leaders to become significantly more active and visible in their role on the change initiatives they personally lead or have been assigned to lead.

    The Role of the Sponsor

    Acquiring project sponsorship is a practical first step when ensuring project success. However, it is important to understand that not everybody can or should perform the role of a sponsor in a project. The role of the sponsor is an active title that requires participation and involvement within a project, it can vary across levels or functional area and it is possible for more than one sponsor to be required when providing sponsorship for a change effort. Below is a high level overview of some of the responsibilities we should expect of a sponsor when implementing change: 

    Active and visible sponsorship

    The sponsor’s job is to ensure that the project goals are aligned with the entire company strategy, to mitigate resistance by gathering support from other senior executives and provide direction throughout the project. The executive sponsor will often work closely with the project manager who are primarily responsible for the delivery of the new capability to specification and on time and on budget.

    There are several ways a sponsor can display active and visible behaviour: examples include direct support of the team and personally 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.

    By championing the change, sponsors should be building excitement and enthusiasm for it and become one of the first adopters of the new way of working.

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

    Don’t do as I say, do as I do.


    We all need a reason to change.

    Many employees who are being impacted by change often want to fully understand the reason behind the changes from leaders at the top of their organisation. An effective sponsor considers the need for change within the organisation and ultimately sets the prioritisation of change by directly engaging with those impacted. 

    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.

    Build a Coalition of Sponsorship

    The primary sponsor should take lead when building and maintaining a healthy coalition of leaders who fully support and encourage the changes being made, iterating it throughout the entire organisation. A coalition of sponsors is particularly important for the changes that may stretch across multiple functions of an organisation.

    How can I learn more?

    Join us for our free webinar “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.

    Take the next step and become a Prosci certified change practitioner with CMC in Singapore. Find out more in our Course Brochure