The Role of the Executive Champion

Posted: 10/21/2013 by Norma Watenpaugh

Success Begins at the Top

It is hard to overstate the importance of a champion at the senior levels of the organization.  Many alliances fail or falter when they lose the executive champion and the role is not backfilled with a strong leader.

The role of the champion is many fold. They represent the alliance issues and needs at the senior levels of the organization ensuring that the senior staff is aware of the charter of the alliance and its contribution to company goals. They provide strategic guidance to the alliance team to ensure alignment with the strategic imperatives of the organization. They are often called upon to assist in navigating the organization, making introductions and shortcutting red tape.  They also serve as the last point of escalation when conflicts or major decisions arise that exceed the authority of the alliance team to resolve.

 Champions need to be cultural leaders, setting the tone for collaboration and the values and norms that promote a healthy environment for collaboration to thrive.  More about the culture for collaboration later, but suffice it to say that champions need to demonstrate and foster partner friendly behavior.

“Our vision is simple. We want P&G to be known as the company that collaborates – inside and out – better than any other company in the world.”

A.G. Lafley, CEO P&G


A.G. Lafley led a major turn-around at P&G through a highly-celebrated ‘Connect and Develop’ strategy. He challenged the organization to source half the innovation for new products from external sources resulting in a renewed pipeline of products and fueling the financial comeback of the company.  P&G executed on all the fundamentals for managing successful collaborations, but clearly championship from the top was a critical success factor in that transformational change. 

Responses to The Role of the Executive Champion

Steve Shumansky

Alliances prosper only when their benefits are bi-directional. Executive sponsorship is critical, but is most effective when there is a clear and concise vision that is communicated, internalized, and then proliferated by the teams who make business happen in the trenches.


Thanks Joan, Ironically one of the chief examples I point to is an alliance with an ISV and IBM. The ISV had a very active executive sponsor with great relationship with their IBM counterpart. When the ISV exec left the company, they neglected to rebuild that relationship with another sponsor. The net result was IBM decided to plug that gap by buying a competitor. The ISV was left with a formidable competitor instead of a powerful partner. Hard way to learn that lesson!

Joan Meltzer

Norma,strongly agree! There are lots of examples of failed alliances because of of the lack of a Senior Champion who ensures the alliance is aligned with the C-Suite objectives. The Champion needs to lay a major role in the governance process, also ensuring a fast path escalation process is in place if needed.

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