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We Asked The Project Management Community: How Do You Build A Strong Relationship With Sponsors From The Start?

“A sponsor's priorities should be your priorities. Set up a meeting to validate their strategic priorities and get aligned with them. Then go over your own understanding of your role, responsibilities and limitations. Present an action plan to achieve objectives and work out strategic priorities. Finally, let the sponsor know that you are acting as strategic support for them, are considerate of their time and want to maximize the use of their resources. Sponsors are normally involved with multiple projects and programs, therefore the time and attention they can devote to your project might be very limited. Your attempts to make efficient use of both will enhance their trust in your professionalism.”

—Natalia Garcia, program manager, Pineda Foundation/World Enabled, San Francisco, California, USA


“Success for any relationship is based on three pillars: trust, communication and commitment. Sponsors are humans, too—so we need to stop presenting slides and start connecting. It's the quality of time—not the amount of time—you spend with your sponsors that gradually builds a strong relationship. Set communication needs early in the project and deliver to what you commit. A strong relationship is not dependent on how green your status report looks but, rather, how effectively you have understood your stakeholders’ specific needs, their vision, their concerns and how you are working to deliver all of it.”

—Aayush Sharma, CAPM, PMP, project manager, business systems analyst, AARP, Washington, D.C., USA



“To get to know my sponsors on a personal level, I do brief research on each of them by talking to other project managers or colleagues who've worked with them. I ask how the sponsors like to be informed during the project, what is their level of involvement—do they need to know the small details or do they prefer to see only the big picture? And, at least at the start of the project, before you send any message, meeting summary or presentation to the project sponsor, have your mentor or manager review it first. This helps to ensure all information is well-written and does not deviate from the accepted procedures—which will avoid any false starts with the sponsor.”

—Etgar Fishel, professional services organization project manager, Medi, VMware, Herzliya, Israel


“Show sponsors you'll take nothing for granted by identifying the project's unstated objectives. If you have a reputation with a sponsor that precedes your first encounter, you want to build upon that—or take steps to improve any misunderstandings. It's also important to determine how much time they'll have or when they will be available at different times across the project's lifespan. The answers to these initial questions determine how the next questions need to be asked and how you can best act upon them.”

—Leyton Collins, PMP, program manager, Agfa HealthCare, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada


“To make sure you and your sponsors have a shared vision of success, take time to get to know and understand each other. This helps you define and understand your respective roles and helps you educate your sponsors on your needs and expectations—and where the sponsors can have the greatest impact. Never surprise your sponsors. You can prevent surprises through active dialogue and by communicating early and often. Make sure you and the sponsors are working from the same information and data. And have a contingency plan worked out to replace your sponsors if you lose any of them unexpectedly.”

—Dave Snider, PMP, senior program manager, HP Inc., Corvallis, Oregon, USA

Source: PM Network 12/2017 - 2017 PMO OF THE YEAR

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