It’s their project — you’re just managing it for them. If the business doesn’t get what it expects from the project (and you’ve delivered your part), then it is down to the Sponsor.
Unfortunately, many Sponsors are appointed to, rather than ‘own’, their project. The project comes into existence somehow, and then someone says, “We need a Sponsor” and the search for a suitable executive commences. A candidate is identified, approached and confirmed. This is not the path to ‘ownership’.
Meanwhile, the Sponsor sees their designation as logical and possibly self-preserving (better me in control than someone else) — but ownership is another matter. This project is just one of the 101 things they are accountable for; they’ll do their best, but. . .
For you as Project Manager this is not good enough. You want ownership and commitment. As the old observation about an egg and bacon breakfast goes, the chicken has contributed, but the pig is committed. You need pig-like commitment.
So how do you achieve this?
Sit down with your Sponsor and discuss what they think the project is all about, what they are trying to achieve and what they see as the major challenges.
Are they on the right planet? If they have a totally different view to you, then “Houston, we have a problem!” You need to sort out which of you is right before you go any further. (If you cannot get time with your Sponsor, mark Governance as “red” on your project report until you do meet.)
The key point is to understand where they are coming from and how important the project is to them — i.e. their levels of understanding and ownership.
What you need is a Sponsor who will make time to address the key issues, enthusiastically and continuously champion the project, track and monitor the business attitude towards the project, take pre-emptive action if support is waning, and be alive to any threats to the project’s success.
Not someone who says, in effect, “How are things going? Anything you need me to do?”
If you rate their level of ownership as ‘medium’ or below, interested to not interested enough to take action, take them through the exercise of defining the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for the project.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.