Project Sponsorship: Achieving Management Commitment for Project Success

Authors: Alfonso Bucero and Randall L. Englund

People understand different project roles when they develop insight about the value of doing projects well and how people can contribute. This book is for executives or managers who are, or will be, sponsors of a project or program. The secondary audience is project managers, project leaders, and facilitators—the people most dependent upon project sponsors to set the stage and support their success. These people need to instantly snatch up this book to seek guidance about how to recruit and manage their sponsors.

Many executives are assigned as project sponsors, but their organizations do not spend time training and explaining their expected roles and responsibilities during project life cycles. The accidental project manager role is well known, and the same applies to sponsors.

The sponsor role can have a tremendous impact on project success. However, reality is quite different. In our experience, the sponsor role appears confused in many organizations. Sometimes the sponsor is not very involved in the project. On the other hand, sometimes the project sponsor is too involved and acts or tries to act as a super project manager, generating more conflict and problems.

Management support is always needed during the project life cycle. In fact, the sentence: “we need more management support” is very common in most organizations. In every project, the project manager and his/her team needs management support. Each project needs a single sponsor. In contrast, avoid multiple sponsors because that usually equals no sponsorship. To give effective management support, managers need to know what is expected from them. Many sponsors do not know very much about the projects they are sponsoring, and no one has explained to them what the meaning of project sponsorship is.

According to a study of change management research, “the number one contributor to project success is visible and effective sponsorship.” Participants cited “the top changes they would make regarding project communications in the future would be to incorporate more frequent communications earlier in the project, conduct more fact-to-face communications, offer more communications from executive sponsors and senior managers, and deliver more information about the impact of the change.” Furthermore, “Many managers spend the better part of their time focusing on technology or system issues surrounding organizational changes, rather than creating a comprehensive plan to facilitate critical communications with all the sponsors and target audiences that will be impacted.”