The Sponsorship role is perhaps the most important in a project. The Sponsor owns the project and has a direct responsibility for ensuring that the desired business outcomes are achieved. In discussing project failures with people, one of the common complaints I hear is that the Sponsorship role is either non-existent or weak in their organizations. Ownership of projects is often unclear and no one really champions the project within the organization. Project Managers are left holding the baby and are expected to perform miracles without being given the support they need.
Given that this is such a common problem, I thought I would write up a blog post directly addressed to our colleagues who are playing the Sponsor role. So, on behalf of the Project Management community here is a list of self inflicted wounds that Sponsors often cause their projects,
Dear Sponsor please do not:
- Continually flip flop on key strategic decisions to the point where your team looses confidence in anything you say
- Charge ahead without first thinking through what it is you really want to achieve
- Create a flurry of excitement at the start of the project and then disappear throughout the rest of the project
- Drag your feet on providing approvals or making decisions, but then still expect the team to achieve impossible deadlines
- Confuse people with convoluted or mixed messages
- Slash the schedule and budget numbers given to you by your team
- Insist that there is no need for any contingency
- Ignore the advise of your technical experts
- Put together the weakest, least trained team you can and then expect the Project Manager to overcome the resourcing problems you have created
- Force the Project Manager to define project priorities because you refuse to do it by demanding that everything is top priority.
As Sponsor your job is to create an environment in which the project can succeed. You are the enabler of success, while the Project Manager and the team are the delivery vehicle through which success is achieved. If you remove the wheels from your vehicle, if you fail to give it the fuel it needs and if you fail to maintain your vehicle, you cannot expect it to win the race.
We will now return to normal programming…
Signed – Contributing editor
Joe Camper-Grant – Chairman Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Project Managers.