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Top 10 Ways to Become the Best Project Sponsor on the Planet

Top 10 Ways to Become the Best Project Sponsor on the Planet

Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL

So, you want to be a project sponsor…

…or maybe you don’t but your CEO gave you the responsibility anyway! What’s next?

That’s a question I hear a lot these days. Executives are finding themselves named as project sponsors and they really want to do a good job, but don’t know where to begin.

To be honest, I could write a book on the topic but I haven’t. Others have, and you might not have the time, or perhaps the desire, to read them. I don’t blame you, it can be dry stuff. That said, you do need some ideas on how to do the job.

Well, you’re in luck, because I found a short 10-question survey developed by the State of California CIO’s office that seeks to determine just how committed their project sponsors are.

When looked at another way, the 10 questions are actions that any sponsor can take to ensure they’re doing the job and doing it well.

I have taken the liberty of rephrasing them to denote actions you can take be the project sponsor your organization needs you to be.

  1. Champion the project.

    If you don’t promote the project who will?

  2. Approve the project plan, schedule and cost estimates in a timely manner.

    Asking for more information than required, or having more people involved than necessary, just slows things down.

  3. Ensure the executive team stays committed to the effort.

    Projects don’t sell themselves; sponsors do. Executives can lose interest and reassign resources. Make sure they know that yours is the most important project on the planet!

  4. Provide the human resources the project needs when it needs it.

    Most projects suffer from a lack of the right skills. Your project is no different. Fight for them if you have to.

  5. Resolve major issues quickly.

    Get the right people in the room, hammer out the issues, and resolve the problem. Unlike wine, problems don’t get better with age.

  6. Stick to the schedule.

    Do everything possible to see that the milestones are completed when scheduled. No one likes a late project.

  7. Facilitate cross-functional team collaboration.

    Projects often transcend functional boundaries and success depends on disparate functions working together. Organizational silos are project killers.

  8. Stay on top of project progress by having regular meetings with the project manager and team.

    If you’re in the dark you won’t be of much help should an emergency arise.

  9. Provide regular feedback to the project manager and team.

    If they’re screwing up, tell them. If they’re doing great, tell them. People want to know where they stand.

  10. Establish strong working relationships with other executive-level project stakeholders.

    They can provide valuable assistance when you need it, which you will from time to time, trust me.

According to the Project Management Institute and the Boston Consulting Group, an actively engaged sponsor is the top driver of project success. So, go get “behind the wheel” of your project by taking action every day on these ten activities and let me know how it goes.

Related Courses from IIL: Project Sponsor Awareness Workshop (tailored for your organization), Portfolio Management Executive Briefing, Project Management 2.0. Contact learning@iil.com for more information, or browse our course catalogue.

J. LeRoy Ward
is a highly respected consultant and advisor to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs. 

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