Project Management

3 Signs That You’re a Bad Project Sponsor

Great project sponsorship has been identified by PMI as the top driver of project success, and disengaged sponsorship has been linked to one-third of project failures. Thus, when you are a project sponsor, the results of the project will reflect pretty heavily on your sponsorship ability. Is that good or bad for you? In an article for Project Times, Tarryn-Leigh Frans shares three signs of bad sponsorship:

  1. Being too busy to attend or properly conduct a steering committee meeting
  2. Asking for too much information before making a decision
  3. Having no vision of what success looks like, but expecting to receive it anyway

Not Enough Words from Our Sponsor

Project managers juggle countless variables in the pursuit of keeping the project running. They need guidance from project sponsors to ensure a project is aligned with strategy. Steering committee meetings are the times when project sponsors are most needed for this role. If sponsors decide they are too busy to show up or too busy to be helpful, it basically leaves project managers to fend for themselves and hope for the best. This leaves the project highly vulnerable to unforeseen future problems.

Not all sponsors are utterly disengaged from a project. But engaged sponsors can cause issues too, particularly if they drag their feet too long to make decisions. There quickly reaches a point where the value of finding more information to make a good decision becomes smaller than the value of just taking a chance. For sponsors to have an adequate (and not overboard) amount of information from which to work, they can ask project managers to give them options and to articulate the limitations of each one. That is a reasonable request.

Lastly, about having a fuzzy conception of success, Frans says this:

Resist the urge to go with the generic success factors like defect-free products, improved partnerships, and happy customers. Instead, spend the time during the project definition phase to understand project success and how it will be measured objectively. If you have not had a chance to complete this sentence, “I will consider this project a success if…” then it is likely that you and the project team have no idea on what success looks like and I doubt you will ever get there.

In other words, get specific on your vision, and then get agreement from the project manager on it. Then you are taking a right first step toward success. You can view the original article here:

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