Three people took a break from the project startup meeting and went for a walk. Stubbing a toe upon something along the trail, one person picked up and discovered a tarnished lamp. As he rubbed the lamp, a puff of smoke emerged and formed into a huge genie. “Well, hello there,” said the genie. “I have three wishes to grant. Since there are three of you, each can have one wish.”
The first person said, “I’m a hardware developer so I wish for a huge mansion with all automated gadgets overlooking my huge yacht.” “Your wish is granted,” said the genie. The person disappeared into a puff of smoke.
The second person said, “I’m a software manager so I wish to be at an island resort where all my commands are heard and instantly turn into beautiful objects of art and delicious meals.” “Your wish is granted,” said the genie. The person disappeared into a puff of smoke.
The third person said, “I’m the project sponsor, and I wish to have these two team members back after lunch.”
This story represents several roles performed by a project sponsor. One role is to be present at a project startup event and to share the vision, objectives, constraints, and priorities of the project. Another role is to staff and sustain adequate resources for the project. Not that sponsors deny themselves opportunities to fulfill personal wishes, but looking after the interests of customers or clients, the organization, and project teams is a prime responsibility.
I am presenting “Managing Project Sponsorship” to the Project Management Institute San Francisco Bay Area chapter (www.pmi-sfbac.org) on Thursday, February 21st. The event takes place at the Embassy Suites in Walnut Creek, CA. Here are several key points I will cover:
Many executives are assigned as project sponsors, but their organizations do not spend time training and explaining their expected roles and responsibilities during project life cycles. The accidental project manager role is well known, and the same applies to sponsors. An effective sponsor can have a tremendous impact on project success. However, reality presents quite a different picture. The sponsor role appears confused in many organizations. Sometimes the sponsor is not very involved in the project. On the other hand, sometimes the project sponsor is too involved and acts or tries to act as a super project manager, generating more conflict and problems. Management support is always needed during the project life cycle. In fact, the sentence: “we need more management support” is very common in most organizations. In every project, the project manager and his/her team needs management support.
The topic of effective project sponsorship has emerged as a KEY CHALLENGE in every organization doing projects, especially when you wonder why projects are not producing desired results. As experienced practitioners, co-author Alfonso Bucero and I wrote Project Sponsorship: Achieving Management Commitment for Project Success to describe the roles and responsibilities of sponsorship and cover how to obtain, sustain, train, and mentor a sponsor. We draw upon personal as well as experiences from many colleagues in case studies, examples, questionnaires, checklists, and templates.
A sponsor commits to define, fund, defend, and support major activities from the start of each project to the end. The task continues to ensure the benefits that the project intended to produce are realized. A key concept is proactive sponsorship, meaning sponsors who are committed, accountable, serious about the project, knowledgeable, trained, and able to walk the talk. Their values are transparent and aligned with the organization and its strategy. They protect the team from disruptive outside influences and back the team up when times are tough. An organizational culture committed to this approach is a desired goal. Do sponsorship right the first time and save yourself grief later on. The best way to sustain good sponsorship is to start out with good sponsorship. Anything less is remedial.
How do you make this happen in your organization? Take the initiative: .