Project Management

O Sponsor, Where Art Thou? 5 Ways to Ensure Sponsor Engagement

Lonnie Pacelli is an Accenture/Microsoft veteran with four decades of learnings under his belt. He frequently writes and speaks on leadership, project management, work/life balance, and disability inclusion. Reach him at [email protected] and see more at ProjectManagementAdvisor.com.

No show, third in a row.

Anna, a PM, holds a weekly Zoom status meeting with Jade, the project sponsor. At the beginning of the project, Jade was a great partner and a strong supporter for Anna.

As the project went on, Jade’s involvement became more and more sporadic. Sometimes she responded to emails, other times she didn’t. Anna sent Jade status reports and rarely got responses. The rest of the project team noticed Jade’s declining involvement and was growing concerned. “Does Jade still care?” Anna would hear from the team.

Anna, a professional, did her best to keep the team motivated and engaged, but she too was wondering what to make of Jade’s disappearing act.

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I’ve been a sponsor, worked as a PM with sponsors, and advised both sponsors and PMs. By and large, sponsors and PMs are both trying to do the right thing—understand a problem, figure out how to solve it, and work together to implement a solution that addresses the problem.

Even with the best of intentions of all concerned, the sponsor/PM dance can feel more like one is doing a jitterbug and the other a waltz. Often, it’s the PM who sees the difference and has trouble getting the sponsor to take the same steps. This is not only frustrating, but can materially impact—if not completely tank—the project.

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"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you place the blame."

- Oscar Wilde

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