Executive Project Sponsor for Success
A few years ago, we had a run in with the healthcare industry. I think of it this way since is sounds like a run in with the law. Doctors are the law, or so they think. Do as they say, or else. The problem was that my wife, at 46, was having a heart attack and had a hidden... oops... I almost spoiled the story. Unbeknownst to me, Doctors rarely think about two things being wrong; they only work on one issue at a time. Those of us who live in project work realize this assumption can have grave consequences. What the doctors in this case needed was an anal-retentive, tenacious, asshole of a Project Manager whose objective was a successful project. As Gene Kranz so aptly said, "Failure is not an option," the product, service or end result of this project was a life—my wife's. However, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me take a few minutes to set the stage to show my mistakes and how years of project recovery experience helped. I will keep it brief.
|Publisher:||Management Concepts Press|
|Released:||May 22, 2013|
The project sponsor is critical to project success, yet it is a role that is often assigned to a member of the organization with little knowledge or training in project management practices. This creates challenges not only for the sponsor but for the project manager. The organization suffers too if key members of the project team are not fully utilized, as valuable resources are wasted. In Strategies for Project Sponsorship, the authors address this challenge from all three vantage points that of the project manager, the project sponsor, and the organization. Based on their practical experience and solid research, they offer practical methods that project manager s can use to optimize the participation of the sponsor. They also offer clear and straightforward guidance for project sponsors on how to properly execute their duties and contribute to project success. Executives will gain valuable perspective on the organization s projects and key players. From defining the roles and responsibilities of the project sponsor to suggesting specific practices that maximize the working relationship between the sponsor and project manager, this book is the ultimate guide. Examples from real-world sponsor experiences, as well as tips, techniques, and tools, enhance its applicability and practicality. This book should be given to every newly assigned project sponsor, read and referred to by every project manager, and on the desk of every organizational executive as a reference.
The statistics on strategy execution are dismal:
- 59% of middle managers fail at resolving conflicts in corporate strategy.
- 45% of middle managers cannot name one of the top five corporate goals.
- 64% of cross department/functional issues are poorly resolved.
And maybe as you could expect from this:
- 53% of companies cannot react timely to new opportunities.
You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that this trajectory is not going to launch most companies’ latest strategic plans successfully. In fact, these data might make you feel that middle management would be better suited as test dummies for the next generation of manned space-vehicle. Granted, the data show there is a dearth of leadership in middle management, but executive tier has a culpable hand.
eCameron took a serious look at project sponsorship by conducting a series on non-scientific interviews. Initially the focus was the healthcare industry. As patterns started to emerge, however, others outside of that industry expressed serious interest. To address that interest and better understand the larger issue we expanded the interviews to outside healthcare. Candid and confidential interviews were conducted with project related personnel including executives, sponsors, project managers, and Project Management Office (PMO) managers. In summary:
- Sponsorship is an issue in all business domains.
- Good sponsorship is an essential component in creating successful projects.
- Many issues are pervasive across industries.
- Sponsors need to work with project managers to design a successful project outcome.
- Sponsor roles are neither properly defined nor supported.
This white paper presents the results of the research and highlights areas where organizations need to improve to change their project success rates.
Value: Rather than scope, schedule, and budget, value is the lynch-pin of project success. Although the former three constraints are key factors in project success, there is no guarantee that meeting these constraints will result in a positive outcome. Instead constantly tracking the value of the project and making adjustments to the triple constraints to attain sufficient value is critical. Arguably this is the project managers most critical deliverable in the project. It requires significant insight into the project’s customer and a thorough understanding of their needs versus their wants. Project managers have to be leaders (leading subordinates, leaders, and customers), be able to assign priorities based on a critical, objective view.
As they say in the army, never volunteer. Nowhere could that be truer than when it comes to project sponsorship. Given a choice between a root canal and project sponsorship, most managers and executives start looking up dentists on the internet. It is a sad fact—one that project managers must deal with on a daily basis. It is often the project manager’s first solid opportunity to lead up.
Recently I received the book Strategies for Project Sponsorship by Vicki James, Ron Rosenhead, and Peter Taylor, all good friends of mine and trustworthy twitter contributors. It took a while for the book to trickle “up” to the top of my stack; however, when it did I was more than impressed.
"Kotter, ADKAR, or CAP which methodology should we be using to build our approach to improving project adoption?" I hear this question repeatedly from people trying to implement an organizational change management (OCM) program. The problem is that is the wrong question. Take a perfunctory peek at any of the models and you will see that in the quest for an answer people have mistakenly jumped over the first few steps and they head down the road of failure. It is a Catch-22; unless you already have an OCM process in place, you will most likely fail at implementing it. Putting one in place, however, is a change—one of the most difficult cultural transformations your company will undertake. As a result, people jump to the solution stage, which is well down the change management process path (which, they did not know, ironically, since there was no procedure in place).
eCameron is conducting interviews on Executive and Project Sponsorship. The interviews are based on a request from a prospective client on training courses for executive sponsors. (This request is now closed and the white paper, Challenges in Executive Sponsorship, is published.)
We all know ethics plays a large role in running projects. When you are rescuing a project and trying to solve root cause issues, however, it is even more critical. When projects have gotten to the point of requiring rescue, the actions of bringing in a recovery manager are usually coincident with talking to lawyers about alternative routes. One must be very thorough and mindful of the fact that news of the failure can hurt stakeholders, stockholders, and ordinary innocent people.
Few will disagree that sponsorship is critical to project success, yet how many times to you hear, “Our project sponsor is not engaged!” Our research shows that 80% of all PMs will tell you that engagement is the primary issue they face with the executive sponsor. Even more serious, when discussing the topic with executives, a very large majority will say that consistent, high-quality sponsorship is the number-one problem they see in executing initiatives successfully.