Project Management

Own Your Sponsor Relationship

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Show me a project manager, and I’ll show you someone who is frustrated with their sponsor. It seems as though every project has a sponsor that is either too engaged or too disengaged, provides too many ideas or not enough ideas, or wants to know what’s happening every day or never.

Well, I can’t help but think that if so many projects have challenging relationships between project managers and sponsors, then maybe it’s up to the project manager to do something about it.

When I was first taught project management, there wasn’t a lot of focus on sponsors. They were just another type of stakeholder—an important one perhaps, but just a stakeholder. And after the initiation of the project, I was trained that there wasn’t a lot I was expected to do for—or with—that sponsor other than send status reports and get sign-offs at key points. I suspect the training hasn’t changed a whole heck of a lot.

I think that’s wrong. I think the sponsor relationship can make or break a project, and I think the project manager should own and actively manage that relationship. If you are a new project manager, then start your career off on the right foot and own your sponsor relationship. Here are my ideas for how to do that.

Provide structure and consistency
Right from the start of the project, set up a regular review …

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Half this game is ninety percent mental.

- Yogi Berra