Getting Your Project Off the Ground with Decisive Sponsorship

Dec 3, 2019

Sponsor behaviour is a huge driver in project success. An indecisive sponsor, reliant on a weak team, or unsure of their preferred direction will drag a project down. Conversely, active and decisive sponsorship creates passionate leadership and proactive thinking, and is guaranteed to get your project off to a flying start.

Four ways your sponsor can make a difference

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a great example of decisive sponsorship. It’s been a refreshing experience, and has guaranteed a successful launch. Determined to get the project started, the sponsor exhibited four key behaviours. So impressive has progress been, we reckon those behaviours are worth sharing. So what has this sponsor done so right, when others can get it so wrong?

Number One – Before the project kicked off the sponsor took the time to really understand and clearly articulate the business problem. This helped them reach clarity on the cost of doing nothing, compared with the proposed solution. Giving the business a simple decision to make, without contingencies and unclear “maybes” ensured no doubts on what the project would and wouldn’t deliver, and meant no confusion across the team and the wider business.

Number Two – By outlining the problem and solution, the sponsor was able to present a vision for the future. In tandem with a clear, fact based identification of the problem, this laying out of the vision inspired the team and showed a new way to engage with customers. Just as crucially, the sponsor showed how the impact of this change could be measured and used to define success. By giving the business a vision, plus a way to measure its impact, our sponsor added a layer of inspiration to the fact based clarity of problem identification.

Number Three – The sponsor had total clarity on resource requirements. By identifying who was needed to get the project up and running, they were able to give the business clarity on impact elsewhere. Crucially, they also subtly excluded anyone not central to getting started, eliminating “peripheral stakeholders”. Every project will have people like this around its edge, a group likely to dip in and out, and create more distraction than value. By clearly excluding them from kick-off the sponsor gave his team a clear run at launch.

Number Four – Finally, the sponsor set the right tone for the project from the beginning, setting out clear rules of engagement to ensure everyone understood their purpose – to make decisions, and to  “speak now or forever hold your peace”. The project team knew they had a clear remit to question where appropriate, and to not unnecessarily return to missed opportunities down the line.

And now we’re up and running…

So, how’s the project shaping up? Let’s just say it’s amazing the difference a great sponsor can make. We’re underway and on track, with all interested and impacted parties understanding what we’re delivering and why.