Myths about project sponsoring

Elyse Nielson, Ascension Health, and Anticlue presented at the PMI North America Congress in Dallas last month. She spoke about sponsors and how they interact with the project. She spoke about the importance to find the right sponsor for the project, and also shared some myths about sponsorship.
Elyse noted that project managers and project sponsors often believe the following:
“One size fits all”
The relationship between a sponsor and a project can’t be changed.
Everyone knows what to do, even their sponsor.

She explained that the sponsor has many responsibilities, which include:
The project is yours to own
Authority over project resources
Communication: She said that they must be able to communicate with their sponsor. “You must be on the same page as your sponsor.”
Change management
Benefits realisation

Elyse stated that the sponsor should be:
An advocate
A leader
A mentor
A coach
A decision maker
Someone who has a global perspective
Someone who can lead on the topic of risk mitigation
A good manager

She said, “When you have a team in distress and an executive gives them a slap on the back, that’s better then a bonus sometimes.”
Elyse noted that the idea of one sponsor for the entire life of a project is restrictive, especially when you consider the fact that the role, focus, and tasks of the sponsor all change depending upon the project phase. Take, for example:
Initiation: The sponsor should have the organizational expertise to ensure that the project begins in the best way possible
Planning: The sponsor should have a strategic perspective
Execution: The sponsor should focus on removing roadblocks so that the project team can complete their tasks as needed
Closing: The sponsor should be focused on the project benefits and, of course, reward the team for their hardwork.

Elyse stated that “Not many people are good at all of this.”
That’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes, a sponsor who excels at strategic planning doesn’t know how get things done when the project is in a bind. The same goes for someone who is able to manage all of that but is not skilled at campaigning for the project to keep senior management’s attention.
She was arguing that it wasn’t a failure for sponsors to change throughout the life of a project. In some cases, it might even be the best thing. Have you ever switched sponsors for a project? What was the outcome?