How good is your project sponsor?
My experience is that the commitment, or ability, or style, of a project sponsor is one of the biggest reasons for project managers to moan.
Whenever I get a room-full for training, there is always a handful who moan that:
- they don’t get the support they need
- their sponsor is too intrusive
- the sponsor disrupts project meetings
- their sponsor won’t make critical decisions
- they don’t know who their sponsor is
It’s at that point that the people who don’t think they have a sponsor seem to sigh with relief!
What’s the Problem?
A sponsor – or whatever you want to call them – is a critical part of the project. They sit at the heart of project governance.
Poor sponsorship = Poor governance
So, if you don’t have a sponsor*: stop work on your project.
If you don’t know who your sponsor is: stop work. If there is one, they’ll find you.
If they won’t make critical decisions: stop work. Sponsorship is governance. Governance is steering**. If no-one is steering, the ship, it’s safer to stop.
Now we’re onto the leadership bit. You have a sponsor but you don’t like the way the choose to exercise their responsibilities. Fair enough. My experience is frequently of under-trained (untrained) sponsors who don’t believe they need training.
But you are the project manager and your job is to lead the delivery of your project. And leadership means tackling the tough conversations. Sit down with your sponsor and talk it through. Organisationally, your sponsor may be bigger and uglier than you are. But that’s no excuse. Prepare well, and have the conversation. Until you do, you have no right to moan.
* If your boss asks you to do a small project; they’re your sponsor. If you start a small project, you can be your own sponsor.
** ‘Governor’ comes from the Greek, ‘Kubernator’, meaning steersman.