Is your Executive Sponsor hiding?

Most projects will have an Executive Sponsor. In Prince 2 terms I am referring to the ‘Executive’ and in PMBOK language this is the ‘Sponsor’.  This is the person who (a) has the funds to pay for the project to go ahead and (b) is the person who will or should champion your project.

This person is very important to your project.  They are the person that should be providing the face of your project at a senior level, making key decisions along the way based on their business knowledge and be very supportive of the team in such a way as to help the team sustain momentum along the delivery journey.

So, what happens when you Executive Sponsor is hiding?

Firstly, how do you know they are hiding… well they don’t attend key Project Control Board meetings; aren’t the decision maker; don’t really hold and visibly have accountability for the outcome; they aren’t interested in progress in a real sense, and I would suggest struggle to really be able to articulate what the project is even really about, if they were asked for the elevator pitch describing it.

What are the impacts of not having a visible Executive Sponsor?

1. The right project decisions aren’t made in a timely manner. 

This has a key impact on delivery.  There are times when even when the Business Requirements are well defined and the project team is very switched on and delivering, that issues arise.  This is the time when your Executive Sponsor is needed to make a decision based on what is going to provide the best outcome for the business.  And this is an important aspect, because they are the ones that should have the broadest knowledge of business strategy and therefore where the project fits with strategic initiatives.

2. You don’t get a real champion for your project.

This is important from the change management perspective.  You need an Executive Sponsor who holds the accountability for delivering the key messages related to the change impacts of the project on users/staff/customers, all of those people impacted.  And whilst the change message is best delivered by people’s supervisors, it must cascade down from the right higher up source to have credibility.

It is also important that you have a senior person who will deliver your elevator pitch to other managers to make them aware of it and the benefits to them.

3. The project team doesn’t  feel supported.

This is a problem for projects that are difficult, run for a long time, and have issues arising that create tension between team members.  You need an Executive Sponsor who is going to support the team by providing information about what is important to him and his business about the project, and why he appreciates the efforts being put in.  I am not talking about words only here either, these need to be genuine messages delivered to the team at the right time and place.

4. You don’t have someone to support additional funding requests if they are needed.

In the worst case scenario where your project runs over budget because there is scope creep, you want to know that you have someone senior available to go in to bat for you when your additional funding request goes up to the Change Control Board (CCB).  Without this support the likelihood of the funding being provided and approved is very slim.  The CCB will want to know that the Executive Sponsor has fully supported the additional funding request and the reasons for it when it was presented at the Project Control Board for approval.

So, consider WHO your Executive Sponsor is going to be, and ensure that they can be present for you during the whole life of your project.



Written by Karen Munro

Image courtesy of Imagerymajestic at