Project sponsors; it’s time to give up your day job!

Yes, you read correctly. Stop doing your day job and focus on your project sponsorship role. Let me explain why with a recent teleconference with a group of very senior executives.

We were discussing a workshop for project sponsors- what goes wrong and the needs of this group.  The Senior Vice President for Human Resources said that senior managers and project sponsors in particular are working at the wrong level. “They often get too involved in low level business as usual and lose focus of the main objectives of the project and the link back to the business strategy.”

I asked a number of questions including what has been done at performance reviews to rectify this situation. The silence spoke volumes.

Yes, stop doing your day job. Delegate lower level work which helps develop others in the business

Let’s link back to the title: Project sponsors; give up your day job! There are two points to cover. In  project sponsor workshops I introduce the group to the work of Professor Thomas Paterson. It is a simple decision making model with a 6 scale classification system. It can also be used in job evaluation. At this point I ask the group two questions. Based on Paterson’s work:

i.what level of decisions should you be working at?

ii.what level of decision are you actually working at?

The majority of the group usually say they are working at a lower level than they should be. I use this to get the group to look at what they can do to work at the ‘proper level’.The top three usually include delegate (or delegate more often), drop work altogether and be better organised.

(You can details of Paterson’s work here.) 

The second area I want to link to is an excellent article by Michiel van der Molen. The article called; Don’t blame the project sponsor! How to advance project sponsorship in organisations has some really challenging thoughts. He says:

We are both saying the same thing; focus on the organisations key objectives namely projects alongside focussing on your sponsor role, not business as usual.

Van der Molen also suggests:

“……performance management in many organizations has not yet been adapted to the needs of an environment where the capability to change has become a major success factor.”

I agree! All the conversations I have had, all the examples I have and all the actions sadly support this view.

So, if a project sponsor gives up the day job there would be more of a focus on the key business agenda – delivering projects. If as the Senior Vice President HR suggested ‘sponsors lose focus and should be looking to deliver the strategy’ then a huge shift is needed. Giving up the day job will help.


Photograph courtesy of

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