Change management is an evolving field, and every company and project can have its own unique obstacles. But through decades of research, a collection of methodology-agnostic change management best practices have emerged, helping form a common foundation for the people side of change. Below is a selection of research findings on best practices for change management sponsorship.

Most Effective Tactics for Creating Active and Visible Sponsorship

Research participants identified five tactics for creating active and visible executive sponsorship:

1. Provide behind-the-scenes assistance to the sponsor on his or her role

The most effective tactic reported by participants for creating active and visible sponsorship was assisting with action plans, scheduling activities and preparing materials for the executive sponsor. Efforts by the change management team included: developing a sponsor roadmap or action plan; involving the sponsor in hands-on work to show visible support; drafting sponsor communications (e.g. newsletters, emails); preparing talking points; scheduling or inviting the sponsor to meetings; and creating opportunities for the sponsor to be active and visible (e.g. town halls, roadshows, staff meetings, walk-arounds).

2. Coach the sponsor on their role

The second most common tactic for creating active and visible sponsorship was to explain the role of effective sponsorship, establish expectations for the role and equip the executive sponsor with tools, advice and coaching to make their job as sponsor easy to fulfill. Participants also indicated that it was important to build trust and rapport with the sponsor to enact this coaching effectively.

3. Hold regular meetings with the executive sponsor

Engaging with the sponsor through regular meetings or communications was the third most common tactic. Activities during these meetings or correspondences included: discussing project updates and progress; reiterating key messages; asking and answering questions; sharing successes; and giving feedback on the sponsor’s involvement on the project.

4. Ensure the sponsor communicates directly with employees

Research participants indicated that ensuring that the sponsor communicates directly with employees (e.g. through face-to-face communications, live or recorded speeches, videos, written communication, etc.) was another tactic for having the sponsor actively and visibly engage in the change. 

5. Hold the sponsor accountable in their role

Study participants indicated that holding executive sponsors accountable and ensuring that they show support for the change management efforts were tactics for creating active and visible sponsorship. Suggestions included alignment to their personal interests, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or personal initiatives.

Sponsor Activity Model

Participants described the most important sponsor activities for managing change. The data was broken into three major project phases: start-up (planning), design and implementation. The activities and steps were further categorized by the primary target audiences:

  • Project team
  • Managers (including business leaders)
  • Employees

Below is a 3 x 3 diagram illustrating the responsibilities of the sponsor in each project phase (start-up, design and implementation). The activities required for each box in this figure are intended to be general descriptions for the category. 


How to Access More Best Practices Research

This research on sponsorship was taken verbatim from the eBest Practices, an online cloud-based app of the Change Management Best Practices Report – 2014 Edition, the largest body of research on change management. Create your own playlist of topical research findings from the hundreds of graphs and other best practices research, accessible through the free Prosci Portal. 

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Written by
Robert Stise
Robert Stise

Robert uses his extensive educational background in social science research and writing to continually expand and deepen the body of knowledge dedicated to change management. In his role as Prosci research and development analyst, Robert works to plan, run and produce meaningful advances in the field of change management.

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