Change or Chance (Part 2) – The Executive Sponsor

In part

Change or Chance (Part 2)
The Executive Sponsor

In part 1 of this series  we took an overview of change (or transformation) “leadership” (versus “change management”). 

We also started by working towards how to position your organisation to be in the “touchdown zone” of the 30% change successes, rather than be one of the 70% “also-rans” of change failures.

We now identify a further key element of change leadership, the “executive sponsor”. 

The person(s) who take(s) organisational responsibility for driving (and continuing to drive) the change initiative, and with the executive authority and accountability so to do.  

Remember, there must back a backup sponsor in the event the primary has to stand back.

The choice of sponsor is fundamental to the success (or failure) of a change programme.

They require, inter-alia (!) persistence, passion, political skill, and instinct to be a successful executive sponsor.

The minority of transformation projects succeed, and frequently the lack of engagement from the executive sponsor can be a major link in the failure chain. 

It’s all too easy to start off with a bang and finish on a whimper, with the mission’s momentum and direction having been lost for lack of a hand on the tiller, and sponsors head (and skin) in the game.

So, how do you choose an executive sponsor for your transformation plan?

It’s essential that they have both the time and temperament to focus on the change project. 

How many programmes are they currently sponsoring (because some sponsors like to load up on projects, collecting them like football card, as a kind of personal validation). 

The fewer the better and ideally zero, because each transformation project is critical and absolute focus and time allocation is needed to succeed.

Do they have successful track record as a sponsor? If not, what is their potential to be one?

What are their soft skills/capabilities? 

Are they equipped to be fully accountable for the project, its strategic aims delivery, its budget compliance? 

Will they reliably chair the guiding coalition and actually turn up to meetings? 

Will they manage stakeholders, and critically, are they fully on board that change = people?

Yes, change is about strategic aims, funding, project management, processes, and competitive advantage. 

But when you boil down the core reasons for success or failure, it’s whether stakeholders (and crucially, the organisation’s own internal stakeholders) buy-in to, and support the change, that makes the difference.

It’s also the sponsor who must clear the path of obstacles to the change project and gain full organisation support for doing so.

The executive sponsor must possess and share a very clear vision and road map of the principles and accelerators of change and have the proven people skills and drive (passion) to ensure that the map is followed to a winning conclusion.

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Barry Eustance CMgr MCMI

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