Is Your Change Project Sponsor Renting or Buying?

Think for a minute about the difference between how you treat property you OWN (such as a house) compared to property you RENT (such as an apartment or a condo).

  •  When you own the real estate, you gladly invest “sweat equity”. You plant landscaping, you install window treatments, you paint the walls – the list goes on (Some say it never ends, which keeps Home Depot and Lowe’s in business). Whether you realize it or not, the property becomes a subconscious extension of how you view yourself
  • When you rent the property, you might hang a few things on the walls, and move your furniture in and out, but you don’t generally view it as a long-term investment. In other words, it’s not an extension of yourself because it’s temporary

What’s the business application here, you might ask? When you have a change project underway, find out if your sponsor is renting or owning the project.

According to author Daryl Conner in his classic book Managing at the Speed of Change, a good sponsor, (which means one who OWNS the change initiative) must have:

  • Power
  • Pain (meaning discomfort with the status quo to make change attractive)
  • Vision
  • Resources
  • The Long View
  • Sensitivity
  • Scope
  • A Public Role
  • A Private Role
  • Consequence Management Techniques
  • Monitoring Plans
  • A Willingness to Sacrifice
  • Persistence

I once had a project team tell me they felt like their sponsor wasn’t renting or owning . . . they created a new category. They called their sponsor a “drive-by sponsor”! Everyone laughed nervously at the time. But sadly, their accurate assessment, coupled with unwillingness to confront the sponsorship issue, led to many more problems with the project.

Is the sponsor for your change initiative treating the project as an extension of herself/himself? The best sponsors I’ve witnessed in action do just that with a nothing-to-lose attitude. Their willingness to act, even under difficult circumstances, speak volumes for their credibility. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of authenticity and courageous leadership!

Please share your stories or questions about sponsors in the comments below.

Betsy Winkler is Partner at People Results and can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1.