managing your project sponsor

The Project Sponsor is critical to project success. Like the saying goes ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives’ and the same is often true of project sponsors.

So what makes a good Project Sponsor and how do you deal with the one you have just inherited for your project?

about the importance of a Project Sponsor

The Project Sponsor is the key stakeholder representative for the project and provides the necessary support for the Project Manager with the primary responsibility of achieving the project objectives and delivering new capability to the organization. An inappropriate choice of Project Sponsor can seriously impact the possibility of success of the project and provide you, the Project Manager, with an unwanted additional overhead.

Now you can’t practically ask a sponsor for their CV and put them through a formal interview process, nice as it would be sometimes to utter the phrase ‘I’m sorry but I just don’t think that this is the job for you right now’ but you should evaluate the sponsor you have and complete, in a subtle way of course, a ‘Strengths and Weaknesses ‘assessment. The results of this will help you to adapt your project approach and communication methods to maximize their sponsorship support for the project that you now manage.

Tip: At your first meeting with the sponsor don’t ask ‘hard’ project questions but ask ‘softer’ and more open questions: ‘What are your hopes for this project? What are your fears about this project?’ – You will learn a whole lot more.

assessing your Project Sponsor

But let’s not be pessimistic, that isn’t going to happen to you, you won’t get an extreme case of Project Sponsor and they won’t fail the ‘interview’. So, what is your next move? Well perhaps you should consider the power base that your Project Sponsor has. Use the power & interest grid technique to

  1. assess your Project Sponsor
  2. assess their rating of interest in this project from high to low
  3. and their actual power in the organization, also from high to low.

This will give you an indication of the way in which you should work with them.

quick conlusion

Actually this power & interest grid is for all project stakeholders and if you end up with a Project Sponsor that is in the ‘low interest’ and ‘low power’ quadrant you really have a problem. It is unlikely that this sponsor is ever going to support your management endeavors and you may be best looking for another project before it is too late!


Ian Templeton

Project and program management is at the heart of any successful business as it enables businesses to change by delivering new capabilities and realizing benefits in line with the organization's strategic objectives. I am passionate about project and program management and love discussing it and developing improved ways of doing things.