Book Review: Strategies for Project Sponsorship

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Vicki James, coauthor of Strategies for Project Sponsorship. Did you get promoted to project management? Or, get promoted to project management. You are most likely an ‘accidental manager’. This is someone who didn’t set out to study project administration at university, but ended up in a PM role by accident.
Apply the same thinking to your project sponsor. Did they study sponsorship or did they just sponsor projects because their boss asked? They are an accidental sponsor.
Strategies for Project Sponsorship was published earlier in the year. Vicki James, Ron Rosenhead, and Peter Taylor wrote Strategies for Project Sponsorship to tap into the current trend in project leadership. The book focuses on the role that the sponsor plays. It’s a great idea for a book. It also contains lots of practical advice to help project managers work with the sponsor. Even accidental sponsors may need a lot of help.
The accidental project sponsor
The authors write:
Many people refer to the “accidental manager of projects”, but the truth is that many of today’s project sponsors could also be called accidental project sponsors. They may not have any experience in project management or project-based activities, but they have reached a senior position within their organization through other achievements and have assumed that role.
This is where many project managers find themselves in trouble: they have to work with sponsors who don’t know what they should do or how they can lead a project to success.
What is the role of project sponsorship? According to the authors, project sponsorship is a senior management role. In return for funding, the sponsor agrees to take responsibility for the project and provide oversight and guidance throughout its completion. “The project sponsor is the person within the organization who cares the most about the project’s success.” She should, at least.
First time meeting your sponsor
The day the project manager meets the sponsor is an important day in any project. Do your research: What other projects have they sponsored? Who else have they worked alongside? How was it? What do you think about their influence on the company?
According to the authors, the goal of this meeting is to build your relationship and gather important information that can be used for initiating the project. Ask stupid questions and use your ignorance to your advantage.
Understand the motivations behind the work. This is your chance to impress. The book contains a suggested agenda for the first meeting.
They suggest that you find out about your sponsor’s experience with sponsoring. What expectations does she have? Discuss decision making and time frames. The authors recommend that you get your sponsor to agree to make decisions within 24 hours.
Sponsorship for the first time
The book discusses what makes a sponsor a good one, how they view sponsorship from the perspective of the project manager, the sponsor’s perspective, and then examines the implications for organizations. They emphasize that sponsoring is more than being the project’s head.
The authors say sponsorship is real work. They write:
“When it comes down to financial accountability, it seems that projects often go over budget, deliver on time, and deliver less than expected. And there are no consequences. No one seems to be held accountable, and no one is removed. If something happens in the “real” business side, such as sales falling, profits falling, or share price dropping, then it appears that someone will be held responsible. This could be because of the fact that there are no sales, profits or share price drops.