identify where you need to improve and put in place the change needed to be a more effective leader.
Some years back I was appointed the lead program manager on an initiative to consolidate a number of disparate order management systems into a single system which supported all of
the company’s order management needs. There were about five program managers working with me who each dragged in their respective customers to participate in the project. The project was sponsored by the IT organization with no sponsorship from the business owner. The project lumbered along for about two
months with the customers continually questioning why they were working on a project that wasn’t on their manager’s radar. The business owner finally had enough and called IT management and the lead program manager (me!) into a
meeting. The meeting started off with the manager saying to IT, “Who told you to do this project?” Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but it was pretty clear at that point that this was not to be one of my shining project management moments. While the meeting was very uncomfortable, I learned an extremely important lesson: absolutely, without a doubt, secure sponsorship on a project at the beginning, or suffer the consequences.
For any project, it’s crucial to get an appropriate level of project sponsorship. I’ve never seen or managed a successful project that didn’t have an appropriate level sponsor leading the charge. Optimally, your project sponsor should have decision making authority over the in-scope project areas, while staying close enough to the work in order to understand the implications of any issues raised. If your sponsor is at too low of a level, they’re unlikely to be able to make decisions that will stick and will have to get authorization from their management before committing to decisions. If your sponsor is too high of a level, decisions will be made, but you’re probably not making the best use of management because others at lower levels could have handled the decisions.
Identifying an appropriate-level project sponsor is a great first step in ensuring a successful project. The project sponsor also needs to exhibit some key attributes to help the project navigate the turbulence and nail a three-point landing. Through my experience, I’ve zeroed in on ten key attributes a best-in-class project sponsor should possess to better ensure a project’s successful completion.