This was a question that set me thinking. However, let me give you some background. I was with a client and I met two senior managers who set the context for some upcoming sponsor workshops.
I then met around 40 people – some team members, a mix of project managers and project sponsors to identify:
- perceptions project managers and staff have of project sponsors
- what project sponsorship is like at the moment – current practice(s)
- what people would like to see in a project sponsor workshop
The meetings threw up many issues and challenges alongside different ideas; feedback kept rolling well into the afternoon.
Several themes stood out however one more than others; the above question. It was explained to me several times that a sponsor was appointed however this person was a figurehead. They were only appointed to give the project some clout, some credibility. But, they delegate responsibility for sponsorship to others having the name in title only.
So back to the question; should a sponsor be able to delegate? Of course, this depends on what you think a sponsor should do.
When I co-wrote the book Strategies for Project Sponsorship (with Vicki James and Peter Taylor – Management Concepts 2013) we found little identified what a project sponsor should do. We therefore set about developing a list, testing it, finally coming up with a list of activities (go here and look below the order button to get your free copy.) The interesting issue when looking at the list is that by delegating sponsors are passing accountability to others e.g making go/no go decisions; or identifies project board members; or evaluates the project success on completion.
I have always believed that there needs to be some interaction between the project sponsor and project manager. However, in the situation where there is a figurehead, who does the project manager interact with? It is a serious question and one that is not easy to answer. If is not easy to answer then look again at the situation which to me seems wrong. It is a false situation where the level of engagement has been diluted by poor role clarification.
Can a sponsor do this? I say not! If they do, are they really the sponsor of the project?
Of course that is my view. What do you think?