How good is project sponsorship in your company?

I was talking with a prospective client (let’s call him Bob) on the telephone and he asked me what I thought was the biggest problem for project sponsors?

Now there are many issues around project sponsorship however one stands out for me which I used in my answer; project sponsorship roles.  I pointed out that that sponsors themselves ask me what they should be doing.  Additionally, project managers also suggest that sponsor styles range from micro managing the project to the other end of the spectrum; taking no interest at all in the project and everything between.

The survey gave poor results

I mentioned to Bob that we have a survey of project managers which we use on internal project management courses. We ask 12 questions. One of them is:

There is always clear sponsorship defined for our projects?

Sadly, 49% say they disagree or strongly disagree with the statement. (Of just over 1500 surveyed)

I asked what he though was the key problem. My prospective client agreed!

Bob suggested senior managers rise to positions where they have received little training with sponsorship being one. He was looking for training to rectify this.

Read the PMI Pulse of the Profession Report 2015

How well does your company handle the issue of project sponsorship roles?  Just how good are your sponsors? How much of your performance management system focuses on this aspect? How much of your training budget or time has been allocated for this area? If its zero (as suggested to me recently by a senior manager) then do read PMI’s 2015 Pulse of the Profession – Capturing the Value of Project Management. If you have not read the report, you may be shocked at the costs to companies of poor project sponsorship (and poor project management). You may also be surprised to see the benefit (real financial ones) to the company of those that are trained in project sponsorship. and carry out their role effectively.

I find it interesting that someone is made accountable for the delivery of a key strategic project with a budget in say excess of £1m but has not received any training to ensure they carry out their role effectively. No matter what risk scoring process you use I would say this is in the red zone.

Project managers – you can help to educate your sponsor!

Project managers can play their part in helping to educate the sponsor. I have given a series of presentations in 2015 and some of the suggestions are include below. As one person mentioned, sometimes we need a combination of effort!

  • arranging a meeting with your sponsor and talking about mutual expectations . Clearly this is not easy however if the project manager is left in a vacuum then they need to fill it. One person suggested taking the sponsor to the pub to do this!
  • constantly communicating with the sponsor about their project and any role issues – without this, suggested one person, the project manager is in no-mans land over roles
  • helping your sponsor by providing them with a check list of who should do what when. Get them to sign off on it. Within the document how about having a note about how you can both communicate role issue concerns to each other?
Who should do what and when?

Who should do what and when?

  • develop your influencing skills – sometime your sponsor simply has no interest or no time. Use your new found skills to try and influence them or….
  • work your way around the sponsor by arranging to meet with others who work as a surrogate! I met someone who tried this and it worked for him. It was not perfect however it helped him to deliver the project

There has been massive focus on the training of project managers. Qualification courses are frequently advertised however very little seems to be done with a key group of people, namely sponsors. It is time to rectify this situation.


This blog was first published by Arras People





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