This was the sentiment expressed by one person on a recent project management course. This person was not alone; many of the group agreed.
We discussed whether the sponsor should understand project management and it was agreed that while they did not need to know every technique they should have ‘a very good overview.’
It raises an interesting issue – just how much does a project sponsor need to know and how do we ensure they have that knowledge?
It would be easy for me to create a list of what I think a sponsor should know, however, it would be a long list. I will cover this by saying the sponsor should be aware of the 5 Immutable Principles and what they mean for the company, projects, project managers and themselves
When I discussed the 5 principles with a group of sponsors earlier this year, one person admitted that they did not have sufficient resources to deliver the project. Someone else pointed out the risks to the business!
But how do we ensure that project sponsors have this knowledge?
- We can run overview courses for them, however, I would suggest this is included in any project sponsorship courses you decide to run
- Project managers need to be educating and coaching your sponsors about project management – the do’s and the don’ts
- Ensure sponsors are clear about project documentation at the start of the project – show them the relevant project templates you will use and how you will use them. Explain which ones need to be signed off by the sponsor and the impact of doing this
- Engage with the sponsor – get them to explain their expectations of you at the start of the project and document this. Review this at any meetings you have
- Explain to your sponsor about key areas of project management: monitoring and control, risk and stakeholder management, scope creep and the potential impact on the quality/cost/time
Now feedback suggests that these may not be easy areas to action for the project manager. So what is the solution? I do not say this glibly – you can either accept the status quo – my sponsor has little or no knowledge of project management – or change this…..
Now one person was critical of me when I suggested that to change the situation project managers needed to polish their interpersonal skills.
The criticism was that it was the sponsor who had the problem(s) and not me so why do I need to polish my interpersonal skills? I asked the person who said this how likely is it that the sponsor will change their behaviour? The answer came back as ‘zero’. I then suggested that as the sponsor was unlikely to change their behaviour the project manager is left with little room for manoeuvre – the project manager needs to change their behaviour. They need to develop their skills to interact differently with their sponsor. It was a light bulb moment and this is not the first time this has happened.
So my questions are these:
- How much does the project sponsor need to know about project management?
- How do we ensure the project sponsor has this knowledge?
I would be interested in your views.