Project Issues – The Buck Stops With The Sponsor

Jun 11, 2021

Hidden issues will rot a project from within. Lying just below the surface, a hidden issue can’t be magicked away. Instead it sits quietly, festering away, waiting to erupt and leave your project in shreds. 

Undermining a project through hidden issues

Here’s the real problem with hidden issues. Quite often they are openly acknowledged – but nothing is done. Sometimes there’s a belief the issue can be tackled later in the project, and sometimes the pressure of time and money mean it’s just ignored – left alone in the hope it won’t compromise the project, an ugly rash on the underside of delivery.

But no matter the issue, it’s the project manager’s job to discover, raise, and ultimately address. Managing the coalface, the PM is responsible for delivery, and issues are obstacles that get in the way of execution. Regardless of the cause, or the ownership of the issue, it’s the PM who needs to sort it, ideally as quickly as possible.

Unaddressed issues are a team problem

Failing to find and fix the root cause of an issue quickly will eventually affect the whole project. At its worst a strange sort of collective amnesia will occur… everyone knows issues have been found, but if the project manager is willing to let them go, don’t be surprised if no-one steps up.

So what do you do if the PM isn’t stepping up? What if they are letting issues slide, or burying them in the hope they do just go away? If you’re the project sponsor there’s bad news heading your way. That’s because the PM’s weakness has just become your own.

 You’ve got two choices:

1. If the issue is bigger than your PM, but something you can help with, you need to step in. Work with the PM to identify the problem, and then use your authority in the business to help drive the conclusion. Intervention early in the process will save your project time and possible failure later. It’s personal capital well spent.

2. If the issue is your PM, then you still need to step in. A PM hiding issues is only setting up a bigger problem for you down the line. Taking action now, no matter how hard it might seem, is the right course for your project and its success.

Showing leadership as project sponsor

Leadership in a project doesn’t just sit with the PM. As the sponsor you can’t be hands off. If your PM isn’t making the decisions they should, and your project is storing up problems with hidden issues then you need to step in. Remember hidden issues won’t just make it hard for your PM and team to reach their objectives. Eventually they’ll rot the entire project from the inside, leaving it in tatters and your respect as the sponsor in ruins.