The Importance of Good Communication – Part 4 – Winning the Support of the Project Sponsor

The fourth post in this short series on good communication the type of information necessary for winning the support of the project sponsor.

Winning the Support of the Project Sponsor

The last post in this short series on communication focused on motivating the project team. In this post, I would like to focus communicating with the project sponsor. In particular, I would like to focus on winning the support of the project sponsor throughout the life of the project. The project sponsor is arguably the most important person involved with the project. Having strong support from a project sponsor is a huge benefit when you are delivering a project. You will get that support if the sponsor trusts you. So, how do you go about getting the project’s sponsor to trust you?

The Project Sponsor’s Point of View

From the project sponsor’s point of view, they have made all the resources necessary to complete a project available to you (the project manager), and now they are placing their trust in you to deliver the expected results.

If the project sponsor does not know you very well, then they will be looking for reassurance that that trust has been well placed. This is especially true if the project is running into difficulties.

Building Trust

winning the support of the project sponsor
Winning the support of the project sponsor is often a major aid in climbing the project mountain.

While the project is running well, winning the support of the project sponsor should not be difficult. The sponsor will be looking for evidence of a professionally run project. A sponsor will be looking for:

  • Clear, easy to read reports on progress
  • Signs that the project manager is proactive
  • Work packages and intermediate results being delivered on time
  • Receive feedback from other members of the project team that the project manager is doing a good job
  • Evidence that the local  methodology is being followed as it should be

If the project starts to suffer from issues, then the project manager will need to:

  • Inform the sponsor of the issue(s)
  • Telling the sponsor about the steps that the project manager has taken to solve the issues themselves
  • If the issue cannot be solved by the project manager personally (the necessary authority is missing, a change in budget, scope, schedule, or quality is required, etc.), then the PM will need to present a well prepared support request

Progress Reports

Project sponsors do not have time to deal with the small day-to-day project issues. If they had the time, then there would be less need for them to have a project manager in place. Since they do not have time to deal with the small issues, then my experience has been that they also have little interest in hearing about them. If necessary, list the issues in the report. State how they are being resolved and spend little time on them unless the sponsor asks to know more.

Bigger issues are different. If there is a danger that the project will be significantly impacted then the project sponsor will want to know right away. They will also need to understand the background to the issue, the available options, and the impact of deciding on a particular course of action.

I will pick up the topic of presenting issues and the related decision requests to a project sponsor in a later post.

In Summary

To sum up, you will build trust with your project sponsor by acting professionally and giving the sponsor the kind of information that they need, when they need it. The more your sponsor trusts you, the more they will be willing to go out of their way to support you.

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