Conventional project management wisdom says that having an engaged executive-level project sponsor or champion is absolutely critical to success. But is your schedule of sponsor interactions putting that wisdom into action?
I know, I know. They're busy. They're travelling. They sponsor other projects too. Maybe they even see the role as a figurehead thing and don't understand what you need from them. (Here's a resource to help you if that's the case.)
But if it's been weeks since you talked to your Sponsor - well, that to me is a risk. Are the goals and priorities still the same in his/her mind? Do they remember what you need from them? Will they be available for that upcoming major decision you need help with? Do they understand any challenges the project is facing -- or do you risk them resurfacing only to be gobsmacked by surprise and with unreasonable expectations?
Saying "Well, I sent them a status report" is not enough to be sure you are ok. Did they read it? Understand it? Really "get" it? Realize what they could do to help? Take action?
Managing up is one of our biggest responsibilities - and that includes our Sponsors. So as you start a new week, consider the following:
How long HAS it been since you had a high-quality, meeting-of-the-minds interaction with your Sponsor? (not just a transmission of status).
What is the most important thing you should touch base with them on THIS WEEK (or at least very soon), for both the health of the project overall, AND the ongoing health and strength of your relationship?
For the near term, think of this as doing "sponsor-related risk analysis and mitigation for the project". (Including risks of disappointing the sponsor through misunderstandings... or risks to the project from not having the sponsor help with certain things.)
For the longer term, think of achieving a 'partnership' with the Sponsor. What would you add to the relationship and your interactions if you were trying to achieve a true partnershipand a really effective one?
The Sponsor and Project Manager roles are both critical. Consistently engaged, aligned, and active, you and your Sponsor can be a truly powerful "leadership team" for the project. Here's to a calendar of enough high-quality interactions to make that vision a reality!
More on working with Sponsors!
Burning question: My project sponsor is adding features when the requirements are arleady signed off
Burning question: How do I communicate bad news without getting blamed for everything?