Choosing a sponsor for Project Success

By - March 30, 2016

Every major initiative undertaken by a company needs a leader to champion the change. In fact, having an actively engaged sponsor is a key driver to project success as reported by Project Management Institute (PMI) research.* The sponsor is responsible for ensuring the success of the project and in turn, must have the influence and credibility to help drive results. Choosing the right person to take these responsibilities is not always as easy.

Below is a list of things to consider before identifying and engaging a sponsor to lead your next project:

  • Who will benefit most from the change?
    • Why would they be incented to own/drive this change?
  • Who is at a level to influence and affect the right parties to change?
    • Are they at the right level to get buy-in from other leaders to support the change?
    • Are they leading the team that will be most impacted by the change (i.e. can inflict consequences on those resisting the change and recognizing those who are in full support)?
  • Who has the most credibility?
    • Historically, have they led other projects successfully?
    • Are they on their way out of the organization or new to the organization?
    • Are they respected by their team and other organizational leaders?
  • Who has the capacity?
    • Are they already stretched in their current responsibilities?
    • If yes, what takes priority or what project will you transition?
  • Who is a strong communicator?
    • Do they bring others in and share openly often?
    • Do they ask questions to try to bring potential issues or risks to light?
    • Are they actively involved with the team members in their day to day work and can naturally obtain feedback?
    • Can they drive others by focusing on the bigger picture and leverage others to discuss the details
  • What if there isn’t a good sponsor option?
    • Develop an internal sponsor – With the right coaching and support, you can produce not only desirable project results but also reward high performers
    • Engage an expert – Leveraging an outsourced leader who understands your project goals and organization is an option and works especially well for developing organizations who are still defining their path
    • Look at the bigger picture – what’s more important – delivering the project successfully or delivering it on time? If the project is mission critical it might be worth waiting until the right person is available to take the reins.

With poor engagement of executive sponsors being the reason why nearly one in three projects fail to meet their project goals, it is important to carefully select project leadership.* Once a leader is chosen and regardless of who you chose, the sponsor will need to be educated on their role and responsibilities. Take the time, select carefully and communicate expectations. To learn more about how RSM can assist you with your other business needs, contact RSM’s management consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us.

*PMI Pulse of Profession In Depth Report, October 2014.




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