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Five top tips for Project Sponsors

At Hart Square, we work with many different Project Sponsors, each with their own character, vision and leadership style that draws on their organisation’s values and structure.

The Sponsor plays a key role in the project’s lifecycle – they are the ultimate decision-maker, the project champion, and, as they may remind you, the one whose head rests on the block if the project fails.

With great power, comes great responsibility, but one would also argue that great learning comes too. What qualities do successful Project Sponsors share?
No matter the size of your project or organisation, here are some top tips for successful project sponsorship.

  1. Keeping the big picture
    As Project Sponsor you need to be able to cut through project ‘noise’ to make pragmatic decisions for the whole project.
    Avoid being pulled in the weeds of day to day project delivery – that’s why you have your Project Team. You need to retain your perspective so you can track overall progress, gauge when the project is excelling or stalling, and be ready to inject focus and momentum as the project demands.
  2. Trust your Project Team
    Empowering staff within a clear and agreed remit is essential to a proactive, engaged Project Team. Actively listen to their recommendations and create an environment which welcomes constructive challenges and recognises individual strengths and expertise.
    Consider how your Project Team refer to themselves within the project, are we in it together or is there a disconnect?
  3. Making clear what success means to you
    Is it hitting a certain deadline? Or is it not spending one penny over budget?
    Of course, we want projects to satisfy all elements of the cost, time, and quality trinity, but knowing your success statement and being upfront from the start sets expectations and focuses efforts. This is your cornerstone to refer to in the face of competing demands and decisions.
  4. A role model for failure
    The Project Sponsor has an essential role in communicating what failure is (or isn’t) and how we respond when things go wrong.
    Create a safe space for new ideas and approaches by speaking positively about trying, testing and learning – just because something has changed doesn’t mean the old way was broken. When things don’t go well, set the precedent and show how projects can learn from experience without aggressive finger pointing.
  5. Championing hearts and minds
    As well as inspiring the Project Team with your big picture, the Sponsor has a vital role in establishing the project’s profile and its alignment within the wider organisation.

Shorter, frequent updates on progress will reassure stakeholders and keep your vision at the fore. What are the 3 things you want staff to associate with the project when it comes up at the next budget meeting?

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