Successful sponsors make time for their projects

Your project will need to have an effective sponsor who is a true partner working to help achieve success. If your sponsor doesn’t have the right stuff, your project will be in trouble.In my travels I have found there are two kinds of project sponsors: The awesome ones and the horrible ones. Bad sponsors can easily be identified by the following characteristics:
• They have very little time for the project when things are going well, but will strick like Attila the Hun at the first sign of trouble. They will be more concerned about the project optics than on fixing the problems.
•You will find out very late in the project what is actually important on the project from a business perspective. Such sponsors don’t personally write the business purpose of the project and probably never even read it.
• You will feel intimidated in the presence of your sponsor. Rather than feeling you have a partner in the project, meetings with your sponsor will always put you on the defensive, having to explain and defend yourself and your team as to why your project is not going perfectly according to plan.
As project managers, we have all experienced the Attila-the-Hun sponsor.
A few years back I had an opportunity to work for a project sponsor wom I regard as not only the greatest sponsor I ever had, but I also as a mentor who could have written the book on great leadership.
Here were some of his good habits:
• He attended the project kick-off meeting and talked to the team about how project success will be measured. The project team learned what was important to the sponsor, and our sponsor let everyone know that he owned ultimate responsibility for the project.
• He insisted that the project manager report directly to him and update him daily basis. He insisted on getting a heads up on any issues that might be simmering — before they boiled to the top.
• Whenever asked, he responded immediately to clear all project roadblocks. He insisted on having an open line of communication.
Anytime I asked him for help, he seemed to respond within minutes.
• He attended all key meetings with the customer and he was informed enough about the project to provide a summary and was able to eloquently articulate why the project was important to the company.
• He was a PM himself once, and so he understood that the PM is the CEO of a project, and as such, needs to be empowered.
As a result, he changed the org chart so that all functional managers reported to me, the PM, on all matters relating to the project deliverables.
One of my greatest memories of my favorite sponsor was during a particularly difficult time on the project.
I needed to negotiate some difficult pricing with the customer (we were developing software).
My sponsor sent me four things.
He sent me the name of the right person to negotiate with and he also sent me three of his favorite books on negotiating. At that moment he established himself as not only a great sponsor who knows how to get involved in the right way, but also as a great leader: The type who inspires others to lead.
And for those of us who think that the typical sponsor is too busy to be involved in a project on a daily basis or to be able to respond within minutes to any project emergency, think again.
My favorite project sponsor had a pretty full plate.
He had over 3,000 people reporting to him, as he was the president and CEO of a publicly traded company with a revenue of over $100 million.
Being an awesome sponsor means being an inspirational leader who gets project management and who makes the time to help a project succeed.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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