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Practice 7: Understand the Nature and Power of “Sponsorship”

19 January, 2016 - 10:47

The sponsor of a change typically comes from the CEO or top management team. Senior leaders authorize change efforts and often provide tangible resources to make that change a reality. However, they also provide intangible and symbolic resources to change champions. If the sponsor announces a change initiative, creates a guiding coalition, and then disappears from view, the organization will notice and the change initiative will suffer. If the sponsor announces a change initiative, creates a guiding coalition, makes him or herself available to support and learn about progress to the team, and regularly voice support for the change initiative, then the change initiative has a much better chance of success.

The relationship between the senior leader and the change champion is particularly important. Since the change champion lacks the authority to get things done and some changes can only be brought about by formal authority, the sponsor must use his or her authority at times to keep up the change momentum. By the same token, change champions should never undertake leadership of a change initiative without solid support and sponsorship by senior leader(s). Without effective sponsorship, change champions are highly unlikely to succeed.

In sum, lateral relationships and influence without authority are as important to organizational change capacity as vertical relationships and authority are. This chapter discusses how creating a cadre of capable champions is essential for bringing about change. contains a graphical depiction of this third dimension of capacity for change.

Figure 5.1 The Third Dimension of Organizational Capacity for Change: Capable Champions