Sponsorships in Change Initiatives

change change management Oct 31, 2023
have a strong ownership of the project for optimal success

According to the Project Management Institute’s The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) Guide, the sponsor “is the person or group [of people] that provides the financial resources, in cash or in kind, for the Project.”

As defined by Wikipedia.com, “The Project Sponsor will be a senior executive in a corporation who is responsible to the business for the success of the Project.”

A project sponsor assumes ownership of a project on behalf of and in the interests of the organization, even though he or she may not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the project.

While a project sponsor is centrally focused on the promotion, approval, and definition of the project, the project manager is focused on its day-to-day implementation after its approval.

The project sponsor is normally instrumental in the development of the project’s business case and the selling of its benefits as a justification to proceed. Therefore, the project sponsor should be able to recommend the cessation of the project if it can no longer deliver the promised benefits.

The role of executive sponsor (sometimes called project sponsor or senior responsible owner) is a role usually held by the senior member of the project-governing group and is often its chairperson.

The project sponsor will be a senior executive in an organization (often at or just below board level) who is ultimately responsible to the organization for the management and success of the project.

The sponsor has a number of interfaces and responsibilities for the project, which include the following:

  • Owning the business case.
  • Securing funding, human resources, facilities, equipment, etc.
  • Selecting the project manager.
  • Identifying and helping to access stakeholders.
  • Assisting the project manager with any questions or issues.
  • Resolving or helping to resolve all issues escalated to the project sponsor.
  • Assisting in the development of the project’s scope and close monitoring its implementation plan when in development.
  • Promotes ethical working.
  • Approves key project deliverables before sent for formal sign-off.
  • Develops the project organization, roles, and governance structure.
  • Ensures that changes to the project are properly managed.
  • Ensures continuity of sponsorship.
  • Ensures that risks are managed.
  • Ensures that the business need is valid and correctly prioritized.
  • Ensures that the project is properly launched.
  • Ensures that the project remains a viable business proposition.
  • Ensures that the project is suitably controlled.
  • Focuses on the realization of benefits.
  • Governs project risk.
  • Helps navigate through the organization to remove project obstacles.
  • Initiates project reviews and supports the process of review.
  • Keeps the project aligned with the organization’s strategy.
  • Oversees overall quality of the project, both the methods used to develop it and the end product.
  • Provides feedback and lessons learned.
  • Provides leadership on culture and values.
  • Recommends “up the organization” opportunities to optimize cost benefits.
  • Resolves issues that are outside the project manager’s scope (resourcing and systems issues are the common issues encountered)
  • Manages project scope.
  • Works with other sponsors of other projects.

The project sponsor should be sufficiently close to the highest levels of the organization to understand and appreciate the big picture and the organization’s strategies. The sponsor needs to ensure that the project aligns with the big picture and the organization’s ambitions.

The project manager and change manager must have a good working relationship with the sponsor, the project manager in particular.

This is because of the business-focused nature of the project manager’s role.


  1. Review the last five projects undertaken by your organization.
  2. Identify who the project sponsor was for each.
  3. Did they fulfill the role of project sponsor as outlined above?
  4. What were the consequences of this on the organization and on their projects?
  5. Contemplate your analysis.
  6. What are the implications on project and change management


If you have or suspect negative responses to these issues, then your leadership or the leadership of others may be compromised.

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