Project Management

When A Sponsor Departs, Strong Project Managers Know How to Cope

Christina Couch

Fernando Perez and his team were on track to deliver a US$10 million IT project on time and within budget. But in November 2015, halfway through the 15-month project, they hit a snag.

Mr. Perez, a regional project manager at Citi in Buenos Aires, Argentina, learned that one of its executive sponsors was moving off the project. (Citi is a member of PMI's Global Executive Council.) The news stressed the project team, but the timing could have been far worse, Mr. Perez says.

“Fortunately, I didn't have to make a critical decision, like a change in the timeline, when I didn't have a sponsor,” he says. Because the project was healthy, “we could handle weeks without a sponsor.”

Not every project leader who loses a sponsor is as lucky. When an executive sponsor leaves a project still in motion, it can hurt team morale, trigger delays, spur budget shortfalls and spook stakeholders. Keeping those problems at bay typically involves delegating some sponsor responsibilities to an interim figure (another executive, for instance) and ramping up communication to team members and other stakeholders so no one is left worrying about the future. Here's how project managers can prevent collateral damage and keep the team firing on all cylinders.


When Mr. Perez learned his project's sponsor was leaving, he met with Citi …

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