Surrogate project sponsor puts projects back on course

A recent experience set me thinking. I was coaching a group of people who had been on one of our project management training courses. A couple of the sessions are briefly recorded below:

• a project to increase bottom line sales profit. The project manager showed me his plans. All goods stuff; getting internal systems right, recruiting some new staff and spending a lot of time motivating his internal team. But, there was a key aspect missing – the end client. All the project plans were internally focussed. There was no involvement of the end customer – the people who will help generate the increased profit.

When I mentioned this, a huge grin crossed the project manager’s face. He recognised the omission.

• a project to introduce a new product. The problem for the project manager was that roles in the project were far from clear and the suppliers were not delivering according to the agreed schedule. We looked at some options which included sorting out both roles and the delivery issues within a formal meeting. The project manager felt much happier and had a clearer route ahead

Now these are only two of many examples of issues that have come up during coaching sessions. However, I have noticed a theme coming from those who sit opposite me….the lack of sponsor involvement. The sponsor should be the person doing the coaching; this is the person who should be guiding the project manager. But, it is clear they are not even meeting to talk about project progress let alone sorting out project management ‘problems’

When asked about the involvement of the project sponsor responses generally suggested ‘very little’ senior management involvement.

The coaching sessions were set up to provide support for project management training course participants. In reality, I became the surrogate sponsor….something I did not expect. This blog is full of many articles about project sponsors see here  and here

This experience has reaffirmed my belief that the sponsor, no matter how senior, how busy or far away they are should play their role effectively. Yes, I accept the difficulty of this statement and have been challenged by sponsors on this issue. However, if senior managers want their strategic agenda delivered then they need to participate in its delivery. Using a surrogate is partly an answer, however, when the surrogate goes, someone still needs to play the role. The sponsor!

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