Project Practitioners > Dear Project Sponsor - Do you solemnly commit?

Dear Project Sponsor - Do you solemnly commit?

By Nova Rose

Three weeks into the project, the charter was signed, meetings were scheduled, the team was in place, and then the bombshell! I was sitting across the table from the sponsor and I could sense the apprehension. "Well....” she started. I knew what was coming and I knew it would not be good, so I held my breath waiting for the next sentence. “I really do not think this is the right time to be doing this project", she said. My thoughts raced ahead trying to decide how I would tell the team that the project was postponed. I was especially worried about how I going to break the news to the users that the new software would not be forthcoming. What was I going to do?

As much as I did not know what to do then, it was painfully clear what I had neglected to do in initiating the project. I had been in such a hurry to keep up with fiscal year deadlines and the budgeting process, that I had charged on at full speed without taking time to assess what was really taking place around me. The feasibility study was based on more of the need to fulfill a requirement than on the facts and current environment scenarios. The other reason I was kicking myself underneath the table? Because I did not take the time to seek out one of the most important components of managing a new project which is stakeholder commitment.

So, what did I learn? Executive commitment is very crucial to project success. If the sponsor is on board, then it is green light. If not, then red. If you cannot decipher the mood, then stop, look, listen and if you hear "well.....", then please, proceed with caution!


Related Links
Want to be sure your sponsor is on board? draft a charter—and get them to sign it! For more on what your sponsor should be doing after the charter is signed, see our guideline on sponsor roles and responsibilities. Make it less likely your sponsor will change their mind with a thorough opportunity screening and review before you push to launch the project.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

You said it all, Nova. A project's success is only as attainable as the executive's commitment to the project and the stakeholders' recognizition of that commitment AND their individual commitment.

A Project Charter is a realistic tool to clearly articulate commitment. When all see in 'black and white', it becomes real.

The chances of success are greatly multiplied when you can get all stakeholders gathered around the project's charter.

Thanks for your insights!

When in IT management I had a strict rule ... if I could not see the Godfather the project was 'filed'. The Godfather had to be high enough to make what needed to happen 'happen' AND (the bit often forgotten) be low enough to be personally hurt if it did not (so the CEO demands often failed in this test). In three years I never needed to extract a project from 'filed'!

I love your term "Godfather", Richard. That conjures a picture for me for sure :-) of the level of authority and clout the sponsor would have.

I do think that a subtle danger of PM terminology becoming more standard and ubiquitous is that we become sort of numb to the original reasons and meaning behind roles and deliverables. Using word-pictures like "Godfather" can help.

I experience the same kind of thing with some teams and the Project Charter, Lorae. Long before I worked in any place that already did Charters as a matter of course, a colleague showed me the "Project Vision" documents he had started doing. Same kinds of content as a charter but his version. He was an engineering VP frustrated with how everyone just went off and started writing long requirements documents and quickly lost sight (if they ever even knew) of what the real customer reason was for a given project. His Vision format ruthlessly focused in on customers, benefits, how they'll judge value. I still tend to use that format more than other standard Charter outlines I see... because I've seen too many teams just start doing the Charter in too rote a way. I like the keep my friend's "customers, benefits, judgment of value" words at the forefront.

Thanks for the comments!

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