Executive Project Sponsor for Success
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.
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.
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.
"Our Changes just don't stick!" That is the cry of too many executives exasperated by the waste of resources trying to get people in their organization to adopt new processes. A major portion of the reason is the lack of an organization change management (OCM) mentality in the organization. This is no more apparent than in the method in which initiatives and their constituent projects are executed. Lack of end-user involvement and adoption accountability are at the core of this failure.
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.
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 the executive tier has a culpable hand.
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.
Few would question that executives are responsible for ensuring projects are aligned with the corporate strategy. They also need to ensure these initiatives remain in line with these goals as business conditions change. To achieve this, they have to be engaged with the project when it starts and maintain that context throughout its life cycle. This requires more than ensuring the project maintains its scope, schedule, and budget; projects must deliver value. Too many projects start with the inspirational support of upper management, but as the project (or company) drifts, the executives have long since disengaged from the project and are unable to straighten out the misalignment. This wastes company resources and hinders the company's ability to deliver.