Working With a "Hands-Off" Sponsor
By Kimberlee Meyers
Your project has been approved; you have the budget, the team and
the time frame needed to successfully complete the project. You
have the user team in place and a solid understanding of the project
What could go wrong? Suppose your sponsor has a fickle attention
Sponsors come in many forms ranging from the over-controlling to
hands-off. As the project manager, I hope to have a sponsor that
falls somewhere in the middle. Either way, project sponsors need
to be managed just like all team members.
At any given time in a project, it may be necessary to change the
scope, budget or timeframe. On occasion a sponsor will attempt to
be overreaching and implement more than one of these changes at
the same time. As the project manager, it is your job to pull the
sponsor back into the heart of the project, assuring that they only
approve a change that will impact one of these areas at a given
Uninterested or Over-Extended?
While a hands-off sponsor may seem to be an uninterested sponsor,
they may very likely be simply over-extended. As a project manager,
it your job to tell them what they need to know when they need
to know it. They do not operate at the same level of specific
knowledge about the project that you do, so keeping facts to an
appropriate level of detail is crucial.
When faced with a hands-off sponsor, you should also lay the problem
out, identifying the impact to each area (scope, budget or timeframe)
with possible resolutions. Finally, make, and more importantly explain,
your recommendation. Yes, tell them what to do and when to do it.
Explain the impact to the project if a decision is delayed. And
just as you would with a team member facing a tight deadline, circle
back until you and the sponsor are in agreement.
Be Sure to Follow Up
All good project managers keep a sponsor well informed of the project
status (i.e., missed deadlines, completed milestones), so do not
forget to follow up with your sponsor, especially with the issues
in which you specifically asked for your sponsor's input.
The project manager and the sponsor are a team; show them how that