Throwing change projects to the sharks

I often see smart managers, who know their business units or functions better than anyone, initiate bold, interesting and potentially transformational change projects. Sadly though, many of these projects struggle to get green lit and those that do often eventually wither and perish. Then comes the ‘blame-storming’ and often, the finger of blame is pointed at senior leadership: “They don’t get why this is important”, “They’re only behind this project in theory” and worst of all, “They’re supposed to be driving this and they’re not doing their bit”.

A wise former boss of mine loves the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad change sponsors, only bad change projects”. Put another way, if a project fails to garner the sponsorship of a sponsor, it’s not the sponsor’s fault – it’s the project’s fault.

So how about this for an idea…

Every quarter, let’s get all managers wanting to drive change projects to pitch their ideas to their executive leadership teams, in the style of the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ (or ‘Dragons’ Den’ for any Brits reading this).

The project initiator would need to pitch the idea, resources required (including budget), and projected return on investment.
The ‘sharks’ / ‘dragons’ (i.e. company leadership!) could ask questions and ultimately decide whether they want to invest their budget and sponsorship.

If more than one executive is interested – happy days! – they can co-sponsor it. And if no one ‘buys’ the change project proposal – well, then the project idea gets filed away for future reassessment.

I can’t help but think this would solve a lot of sponsorship issues surrounding change in big companies but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Better still, if you’re in a position to try this in your organisation, let me know how it goes! You can email me on

And of course, if you need change communications support then let’s talk about your needs, because I’ve got lots of experience to share.


Did you know: Companies most effective at change management are 4.5 times as likely to involve change and internal communications professionals at the earliest stage of planning (i.e when they are identifying the subject of a change project).

Source: Towers Watson: Change and Communication ROI Study, 2014

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