I don’t think anyone would disagree that working well with sponsors and other stakeholders is an important part of the project environment. I’m convinced it’s even more important now as the line between work and projects becomes harder to recognize. I think this evolution is a good thing. What’s more, as it pushes project leaders to become more invested in the business value of what their doing and compelling them to work and collaborate more closely with line-of-business managers to make sure what they’re doing will provide maximum value, I think projects will be more successful and organizations will ultimately reap the rewards.
With that said, the type of relationship you foster with your project sponsors and stakeholders is largely up to you. We all understand that everyone on the project team (including the project sponsor) has a role to play that helps determine whether or not a project is successful or struggles. Unfortunately, in many instances, the sponsor might not understand his or her role. With that in mind, here are three suggestions for keeping sponsors engaged and participating:
- Schedule a regular meeting (usually monthly) with sponsors, team members and other important stakeholders: This might be a good time for a quick status update; but more importantly, it’s a time for reinforcing the value and significance of the project in terms of business value and sponsor’s commitment to helping the team.
- Educate the sponsor on their role as part of the team: The sponsor has an important role as project advocate to communicate with other stakeholders and provide visibility to executives. Don’t assume your sponsor understands his or her role, you may need to provide a little guidance so they know what they’re supposed to do to help keep the project moving forward. In a recent podcast, we spoke with Peter Taylor, the Lazy PM, about the sponsor relationship. You might want to take a few minutes to listen to what he has to say about the PM/sponsor relationship.
- Don’t neglect impromptu one-on-one time with the project sponsor: Make sure your sponsor is willing to have the occasional informal meeting when needed. It’s not only important to cultivate the relationship with your sponsor—your success impacts their success within the organization.
Sometimes an engaged sponsor is the difference between a successful project and one that fails. Tools and approaches that facilitate sponsor/stakeholder communication can make this a lot easier. It’s never a good idea to allow your project sponsor to sit on the sidelines and avoid his or her important role.
What are you doing to keep your sponsors involved and engaged? Should we add something to the list?