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IT Leadership, Leadership, Project Management

How to handle your Project Sponsor getting TOO involved!

organisational-and-project-management-skillsWe all need engaged project sponsors, its one of the key success factors for projects. But what do you do when they are so engaged that they want to be in all of the detail, they want to be a team member, they want to be part of every decision? Do you embrace it? Or if not, what do you do about it?



Engaged project sponsors lead to project success

All projects need an engaged sponsor helping to drive the team forward and remove roadblocks.

“Project sponsorship is an active senior management role, responsible for identifying the business need, problem or opportunity. The sponsor ensures the project remains a viable proposition and that benefits are realised, resolving any issues outside the control of the project manager.”

What happens when the Project Sponsor gets TOO involved

They want to be part of all decisions, they want to be in every workshop, they do not want to just take a high level view and resolve road blocks. They want to be in the middle of the action. They really want to be a team member.

Elizabeth Harrin in her article 5 types of project sponsor comments:

In this situation the sponsor micromanages everything. They want constant updates, they get involved with testing, they check deliverables, they want to be copied in on every email. It can get quite draining, especially if they have a habit of changing decisions made at project management level, things that the team was perfectly capable of resolving themselves.

This will be very frustrating for you but needs to be handled carefully – it is not easy to tell a senior manager to back off!

What can you do about it?

Firstly, applaud your sponsor for being so invested in the project then very gently review their roles and responsibilities and focus them on the things where you really need their support and highlight how much this will help the project.

Explain to the sponsor how they can add value, recapping the roles of appropriate team members and highlighting how they help the project is a good place to start. If you can provide specific examples of where their over-involvement has caused problems on the project, for you or the team, then use these to illustrate the overlap of roles and responsibilities.

Common examples include the sponsor wanting to:

  • plan and manage the project / micromanage tasks
  • be the solution architect
  • or to be a subject matter expert on the business processes

These could be due to an over enthusiastic sponsor as mentioned earlier, but sometimes these are symptoms of a different problem…. lack of trust or confidence in the team. In this case you need to spend time with the sponsor and get them to explain their concerns.

The concerns may simply be due to communication issues, or they could be genuine. Either way steps will need to be taken to rectify the situation and ensure that the sponsor regains the trust that the team can deliver the necessary results.

Have you experienced this issue? Post your example and your approach to dealing with it below.


Additional reading:

Elizabeth Harrin’s article: 5 types of project sponsor, one of which is the “the sponsor who wants to be the project manager”.



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