Why was there real tension in the room?

The 14 people were clearly struggling. They were reluctant to engage with each other or with me. What was going on?

Let me set the scene a bit more. This was a course for project sponsors and the group were all senior managers. We spoke about the research which all pointed to the importance of the sponsor role, and the impact on the company’s bottom line the role can have.

But, there was real tension in the room; the type you can really feel. So I asked; “Earlier you were really communicative, really engaging with the content of this workshop however, this does not seem to be the case now. What is going on at the moment?”

It was clear from discussions that:

  • The group felt a real tension in taking on some of the sponsor roles on the check list I gave them
  • There was a real sense of discomfort in the room brought about because becoming a sponsor or adapting some of the checklist behaviours involved changing the way they worked
  • They also felt that in many projects they were not the project sponsor. I then referred them to the long list of projects (nearly 40) which they identified at the start of the day. I asked who was going to be the sponsor for these projects. I then challenged them by saying that if they were not the sponsors then this would fall to the 6 Directors above them. Surely, for some of these projects, they were the sponsor?


When we concluded the day I asked the group what was the key learning point. The tension issue really had made an impact with the majority saying they needed to go away and have discussions with colleagues and the Directors to look at the role issue. To quote one person: “This issue of our role as a sponsor is so central, that without the understanding of this back at work some projects will clearly flounder.”

So my question is this; are you really clear who the sponsor is for your projects and is the sponsor really doing all they should?


Photo by David Castillo Dominici, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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2 Responses to Why was there real tension in the room?

  1. Pingback: Why was there real tension in the room? | #PMChat

  2. Pingback: Project sponsor or project manager? | Project Management Training with Ron Rosenhead

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