Change Management Blog

Sponsor Role

October 9, 2023

Racha Kabbani: Change Management Professional

Time to Read: 2 Min

Sponsor Role & Significance


The Essential Role of Primary Sponsors in Change Management

Change initiatives within organizations hinge on the active involvement and support of executives and senior leaders who serve as primary sponsors. These leaders lend credibility, authorize resources, and perform crucial employee-facing tasks, setting the tone for the change's necessity. 

This article explores the pivotal role of primary sponsors in change, outlining their responsibilities and emphasizing the significance of the ABCs of Sponsorship—Active and visible participation, Building coalitions of sponsorship, and Communicating support.


Primary Sponsor's Role: 

A primary sponsor is the leader who authorizes and assumes responsibility for a change within an organization, ensuring the realization of intended benefits. The level of sponsorship required depends on the risk associated with the change. High-risk initiatives demand senior executives, while lower-risk changes may involve senior or mid-level managers. Depending on the change's scope, primary sponsors may enlist others to support change efforts across specific areas of the organization.


Collaborative Effort in Change: 

Rather than taking the lead, primary sponsors, along with other sponsors, collaborate with change practitioners, project managers, and people managers. The change practitioner acts as the director, orchestrating the change management strategy behind the scenes, allowing others to fulfill their roles on the change stage.


The ABCs of Sponsorship: 

Preparation, equipping, and supporting primary sponsors involve adhering to the ABCs of Sponsorship. A well-equipped primary sponsor can articulate their role clearly: "I, the primary sponsor for this change, contribute to successful change outcomes by Actively participating throughout the project, Building coalitions of sponsorship, and Communicating support and promoting the change."

ABCs of Sponsorship:

  1. Active and Visible Participation Throughout the Project (A):

    • Sustained involvement in championing the change.

    • Allocating necessary funding.

    • Participating in change activities.

    • Supporting the project team.

    • Ensuring a continuous presence to maintain momentum.

  2. Build a Coalition of Sponsorship (B):

    • Lead in creating and maintaining a strong sponsor coalition.

    • Mobilize key business leaders and stakeholders.

    • Advocate for the change and legitimize it within their organizational domains.

    • Critical for changes spanning multiple functions.

  3. Communicate Support and Promote the Change (C):

    • Legitimize the need for change within the organization.

    • Prioritize change through direct engagement with impacted employees.

    • Communicate why the change is important.

    • Set the tone for organizational prioritization.


Importance of Sponsors During Change: 

Prosci research underscores the critical role sponsors play in change initiatives, contributing significantly to both success and potential obstacles. 

Primary sponsors and sponsors are identified as:

  • Top Contributors to Success: Active sponsorship is consistently ranked as the leading contributor to the success of change initiatives.

  • Biggest Obstacle to Success: A lack of executive support and active sponsorship is identified as the primary obstacle to success.

  • Key Influence on Starting Early: Senior leadership involvement and prior experience with change management significantly influence early initiation of change management activities.


Role of Change Practitioners: 

While sponsors play a crucial role, information alone is insufficient for their success. Change practitioners must act as enabling partners, clarifying roles, sharing research, offering coaching, and facilitating specific sponsorship activities. By doing so, change practitioners become integral in driving successful change outcomes.

Recognizing the significance of primary sponsors and adhering to the ABCs of Sponsorship are foundational to navigating the complexities of organizational change successfully.

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