They say a leader without followers is just someone talking a walk in the park. A project manager without a strong and interested sponsor can be like a small boat cast adrift in a storm.
Great sponsors know just how to challenge in a very supportive way, and exactly how to support when the project is in one of its particularly tough phases. They keep their heads above the parapet looking for the icebergs on the horizon that their project managers may not have sighted yet and they play an essential role managing the stakeholders at their level and above. They get how projects work, they understand the importance of good governance, and do not use the dreaded phrase, “Could you just…..” as they are ever mindful of scope creep and resource and time constraints.
Project sponsorship can make the difference between a successful and a failing project. I once used to think that an interfering, overly challenging, time-absorbing project sponsor was just the biggest hindrance in being able to get on and deliver the project or programme. Once you have experienced a sponsor that has had no exposure to project thinking and who spends the minimal possible time getting close to the detail and to your concerns and challenges in navigating your project to success you begin to understand what it must have felt like to be the spaceman left behind on Mars in the film The Martian…..yes, it can be a lonely place.
Project sponsors – you really matter and can make all the difference in the world to the success of the project and to the sanity of your right hand person managing your project for you. Project managers need you to get close enough and appreciate sufficient of the art of project management so you can have maximum positive impact.