Have you ever taken part in a project where you found yourself sitting back, scratching your head and wondering what the sponsor’s role was – or even who the project sponsor was? I’ve been there a time or two, and the scenario can be pretty confusing.
It looks something like this. At the kickoff meeting, someone distributes an organizational chart with the sponsor’s name at the top. Everyone skims over the sponsor’s name, jumps right in and begins to tackle the project at hand. The sponsor never attends a team meeting, seemingly going AWOL throughout the process. Or the sponsor attends the kickoff meeting or celebratory finale – but nothing in between.
If you want to achieve maximum success with your project, you must ensure your sponsor has a clearly defined role and plays an active, visible part.
How to shine as a project sponsor:
- Support the project purpose. The sponsor’s key role is to understand the purpose, communicate how it relates to larger company objectives, and commit to making things happen. The sponsor must articulate the purpose to the team and organization as a whole. He or she must ensure that the communication “drumbeat” is alive and happening throughout the project.
- Define the scope. The sponsor must clearly articulate the project scope, desired outcomes and timing of delivery. This includes making sure the right metrics are established to measure success at the end.
- Build strong relationships. This is critical. Project team members must feel they have an open door to the sponsor and can talk about anything. Communication must be open and frequent to ensure the project stays on track. I recommend scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings between the project lead and sponsor to ensure success.
- Be present. The sponsor should attend all major meetings and serve as key supporter, encourager, coach and referee. The team needs to see and feel that the sponsor is committed to delivering on these roles and has earned the organization’s support.
- Bust through hurdles. A key role of the sponsor is to be available for escalations when the project team hits roadblocks. This means getting involved and breaking down barriers.
- Be a cheerleader. The sponsor must make sure the team feels appreciated throughout the process. It’s also important to ensure that fun is injected throughout the process and milestones are celebrated.
When a project team is uplifted by an invested, engaged sponsor, team members will feel more involved, proud and motivated to achieve success.
When a project team is uplifted by an invested, engaged sponsor, team members will feel more involved, proud and motivated to achieve success. Even better, those team members will look for new opportunities to work together – and with their sponsor – to collaborate on future successful projects.
Who was your most memorable project sponsor, and what made that person shine?