How to Manage Project Sponsors

Project Sponsor Communication Preferences

Many project sponsors are lacking comprehension of their roles and duties in ensuring the success of a project or an initiative. These project sponsors are not available in opportune times and tend to give perfunctory support. They are inconsistent in their management of the project team and demand changes in the scope and deliverables of their projects.

Some project sponsors do not stand up for their teams. When their projects fall behind schedule, they blame the project managers and the teams and corner all positive recognition that the team truly deserves. Typically, they do not dedicate the time required to manage the project actively.

From a project manager’s perspective, a project sponsor is more focused on the strategic aspects of the project. He or she lacks the task focus and need not necessarily be actively involved in management of the project — this is the responsibility of the project’s manager and, collectively, that of the team. Therefore, project sponsors are willing to commit far less time. Therefore it is the project team’s responsibility to communicate the following with a project sponsor.

  • Describe the reach of the project. Provide details on everything that is in scope and out of scope of the project. Also, give constant reminders on the key essentials of the project goals, deliverables, hypotheses, and limitations.
  • Give your project sponsor a high-level outline of the major components of the project work and describe challenges in procuring the necessary information, budgets and time constraints. Gain his understanding and ask for help.
  • At regular intervals, update him on the key milestones of the projects. Project sponsors are more inclined to pay attention only to the big objectives and the progress of the project in achieving them. They are usually experienced enough to recognize constraints in achieving major milestones and help out in overcoming obstacles to ensure that the entire project may not fall behind.

Manage Project Sponsors

  • Ask for the project sponsor’s communication preferences. Ask him how frequently he would like to be updated on the progress of the project in what level of detail and in what format. Would he like to meet the entire project team? Would he like a one-page summary every week? Would he like to sit in on important project reviews? Would he like to receive and review discussion material beforehand?
  • Acknowledge his support and bring to him any major barriers you are not able to clear yourself. When issues are small enough and you’ve successfully handled them, update the project manager so that he is informed. Keep him update on the status of timeline, budgets, manpower and resources, etc.
  • At regular intervals, let him know apprise him of risks that might bring about further challenges. Seek his input on mitigating risks and providing for consistencies.

Remember, your success as a project manager depends not only on how well your project sponsor guides and oversees your project, but also on how well you reach out to him or her and seek guidance and supervision. Therefore, you must become proficient not only at managing your project team but also at managing the project sponsor.

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