Managing the Project Sponsor
By Alisa Speese, PMP
"It's your fault."
"No, it's your fault!"
I have read so many articles lately written by project managers who are disappointed with their project sponsors' effectiveness. These articles are quick to point out the many transgressions of sponsors and their negative impact on project success. While they may be correct in these observations, there is a clear lack of ownership on the part of the project manager. It's time for project managers to add the ultimate task/deliverable to their project plans -- manage their project sponsors.
do this, there are three main areas of focus; managing expectations,
tracking progress and capturing "lessons learned."
The best time for project
managers to ensure that sponsors understand what is expected of
them is up-front, before the project even begins or during the project
scoping and planning process. However, it is never too late to introduce
expectations to your sponsor -- do it now. Some tasks, like obtaining
funding, are readily achieved by most sponsors. Other tasks such
as assisting in committing project stakeholders, celebrating the
completion of major milestones and becoming a vocal champion for
the change, benefits and improvements of the project may not be
in the forefront of everyone's minds.
It is the project
manager's job to bring these activities to the sponsor's attention
and ensure that they are completed. Just as the project manager
is responsible for ensuring that analysts complete analysis, trainers
complete training and end-users complete user testing, it is the
project manager's responsibility to guarantee that the sponsor becomes
manager routinely tracks progress against plans, and this practice
provides valuable information about the health of the project. However,
this information rarely contains metrics related to sponsor effectiveness.
Tracking information about sponsor effectiveness will help keep
sponsors focused on what is important for the success of the project,
just as it helps other team members. Consider tracking their overall
involvement, communication, risk management and problem solving.
Every team member must have an opportunity
to learn from past experience -- including the sponsor. The project
manager will find that most sponsors are open to reviewing their
effectiveness relative to project goals and learning from those
findings. Include a section in the "lessons learned" report from
which the sponsor can grow.
Take the challenge! Begin
to actively manage your project sponsor, avoid the blame game and
see the positive effect on your project success.