The last element of the sponsor trifecta is influence. In the last two weeks we talked about how a sponsor influences a project by rapidly making decisions about resources, scope, risk mitigation, and other technical factors of the project.
But influence is not limited to making those tactical decisions. A leader must be able to engage with and relate with the people going through the change. They help them understand why the change is important, how it is of value to them, and listen for opportunities for improvement.
Whenever I think about this element of successful sponsorship, I am reminded of a senior vice president I worked with years ago. He took the time to talk with the people that we’re going through the change. He didn’t just spend time with his immediate leadership team, or their managers, he spent time with frontline employees in his organization. He took the time to listen to their concerns about the project, and the impact it was going to have in their work. He took the time to understand what was working well, and what still needed attention. He assimilated this information and took it back to the project team to make sure that issues were addressed, and problems were solved.
What happens when you do not have a leader with influence?
Resistance. You will encounter resistance that can ultimately end the project if not addressed and mitigated appropriately.
1. Lack of progress. There will always be something more important to do unless the sponsor helps to highlight the critical need for the project.
2. Deflection and Defection. If employees don’t believe that this project is important, they will begin deflecting when requests are made of them, and ultimately defect from the project.
3. Sustainability. Without a proper influence by the senior sponsor the change won’t stick. It’ll be another program of the month and will ultimately go away.
What does it take to be successful? The senior sponsor needs to be able to help influence with his organization. This influence comes because of building relationships based on trust and integrity. Most frontline employees I know aren’t purposefully resistant. They want to understand the value, both to the company and to them, and they want to understand how their work will change. When a senior sponsor engages with employees to help them through this, they’ll be much more likely to come on-board, and help make the change a reality.
Dedicated to your profitable transition,
The results are in and they haven’t changed. 50% of all projects fail due to people related issues. Most of these failures are a result of a lack of visible and active sponsorship.