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The Importance of Executive Sponsorship – Mini Case Study

Currently I am working with a client who is in the process of developing an RFP for a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) solution. The draft RFP was completed in early June and reviewed by project team members, including the steering committee, very quickly. The draft was considered final by mid-June. During this review process, the executive sponsor was kept appraised of the timetable and received multiple requests for feedback. Multiple feedback approaches were utilized including phone, email, requests for in-person meetings, leveraging his administrative assistant, etc.,all to no avail. The steering committee and related project team were anxious to get the RFP released and were concerned that the process had stalled. Their concerns were shared with the executive sponsor who promised rapid feedback. However, the feedback never arrived. Apparently “analysis paralysis” set in. It seemed that the sponsor was hesitant to provide feedback because he was no longer certain that moving forward with the RFP, at this time, was the best approach for the city.

During this “quiet period” the following were occurring:

  • Support from the CRM project team atrophied and members were confused as to whether the project would ever move forward. This led to many being frustrated and disappointed because all the hours they invested in this project did not produce the outcome they anticipated
  • The steering committee became disengaged
  • Project Intranet postings and updates became infrequent
  • The city council was not updated and was unaware of the project status
  • The project manager (PM) and myself were constantly attempting “to rally” the team to sustain the momentum.

The PM and I needed to get the sponsor back on board. After trying to utilize multiple channels to connect with him, we caught a break. The city hired a new management analyst. The PM decided to meet with the analyst to share a project update and determined that the analyst was very interested in CRM and wanted to play an active role on the project team. The analyst also sat near the sponsor and both were in the city manager’s department.

We decided to leverage this new relationship with the analyst to get the sponsor re-engaged. We determined that based on the analyst’s background, skill sets, and attitude, he would make an excellent addition to the steering committee, which he welcomed. We leveraged his new role to secure an in-person meeting with the sponsor where the sponsor detailed his concerns. Based on the meetings, we realized that we needed to set up some site visits so he could see other non-emergency call centers and observe CRM in action. This was the major roadblock, because even though we were far along in the RFP process, he was not yet sold on CRM. We realized that his support to date was primarily lip service.

After the meeting, we set up multiple site visits and got the sponsor comfortable with the benefits CRM could deliver. In addition, it provided him ideas on how a call center could provide an enhanced experience for city constituents. After the last site visit, he provided his RFP feedback and we got it released within three weeks, after a nine week delay.

The key lesson is to find spheres of influence that can be leveraged to get decision-makers out of their analysis paralysis mindset. In this case a new employee provided us an opening. In other cases it could be a former mentor or mentee, a former manager, or even a colleague from another organization. When a project gets stalled and is driven by one person, we need to investigate creative ways to push forward and relying only on facts may not be the best approach, as relationships may have a greater impact.

Check out my previous 13 Change Management Blogs at:

Change Happens—How Do You Manage It?


The Impact of Ignoring Change


Getting it Right: Critical Success Factors for Change Management Initiatives, Part 1


Getting it Right: Critical Success Factors for Change Management Initiatives, Part 2


Creating the Secret Sauce – Selecting Change Management Champions


Why Do We Resist? Categorizing the Different Types of Resistance


“People don’t Resist Change. They Resist Being Changed!”


“Whosoever Desires Constant Success must Change his Conduct with the Times.”


“The Greatest Danger in Times of Turbulence is not the Turbulence; it is to Act with Yesterday’s Logic.”


Converting the Dissenter: Part Two


Converting the Dissenter: Part Three


Creating the Change Management Communications Plan


Change Management Communications Plan Tactics


Spencer Stern specializes in assessing the business and process impact of new technology-based solutions, ranging from enterprise-wide software systems to wireless communications networks. In 2008 he launched Stern Consulting where he continues to focus on assessing the financial impact of large-scale municipal strategic implementations. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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