There is a lovely phrase that most writers know: “Kill your darlings.” When editing, throw out everything that doesn’t serve the story you are telling, no matter how in love you are or how clever you thought you were being. That’s true of writing, and it’s even more true of projects. We need to cut out everything that doesn’t serve the project. And sometimes we need to cut the project itself.
Being successful as a sponsor requires being attentive. We need to show up, pay attention and provide active support. Where this doesn’t happen, projects fail. Sadly, every once in a while, projects fail anyway. The challenge for sponsors is determining what to do next.
The role of project sponsor is critical. With their support, projects have an opportunity for success. Without it, failure is almost certain, even for the most talented and capable teams. Despite this, there’s astonishingly little guidance in how to be a great project sponsor. And real life examples of awesome project sponsorship are few and far between.
I had an interesting conversation with a colleague recently about how to represent project success, and to do so simply. He’s an accountant, and a municipal one, so he’s interested in money and politics are an inherent part of the equation. They are two ingredients that make the interpretation of success messy. It doesn’t have to be.
How should I build my skills? What should I focus on? What are the things I should avoid doing to be successful? Those are easy questions to ask, but astonishingly difficult to answer. Especially without context, background or any detailed understanding of who you are responding to. But they were questions that showed up in my inbox last week. So I took a stab at answering them anyway.
“Why are we doing that?” It sounds like a simple question. It often has a very complex answer. Getting to the essence of why is important for project success, but how we usually think about projects often gets in the way. Reframing the questions to get the answers that we need.