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Project Sponsor or a Reason of Failure.

Too often, when we say ‘project sponsor’ we think of a person who is responsible who is securing project funds and has a benefit in a case of success of the project. However, in reality the engaged executive sponsor can mean the difference between success and failure. Before discussing the topic in more details, let me tell you a story of one project which demonstrated how crucial the role of the sponsorship is.

The sponsor, let’s call him Mike, was a division manager with 30 years dedicated to the same company. He himself proposed a very good project to outsource half of his division and create a new organization which will hold all assets. For the organization that would be a perfect project because it aligns with the organizational strategy. Moreover, if the project succeeded it would result in cost reduction, improved service levels and an outstanding return on investment. It was not an easy task to do as it demanded a lot of change and as we know change always leads to resilience. The project faced many challenges; however, after a while a project manager, let’s call him Josh, realized that the real threat for the project was Mike, the project sponsor. Mike was not doing what he was supposed to do as a project sponsor. Because of him very crucial decisions were postponed and it had a negative impact on the project. Josh started asking himself about the real intentions of Mike and he concluded that Mike did not want the project to succeed. The reason is simple. In that case Mike would become just a department manager or will lose his job. Later, Mike confessed that he proposed the project only because he knew that if not him then someone else would propose this project. He did it because he had no choice.

So, in an ideal life a project sponsor is a biggest friend of the project, he is a person who is interested and motivated, someone who is always ready to support the team. However, in reality we can face sponsors with lack of interest in the project, who are not so motivated. And the problem is that not devoting sufficient time and showing interest to the project by a sponsor is a real failing reason. The project sponsor has a big influence on the outcome of the project. So, we can conclude that only projects with supportive sponsors, who have one vision and are working for the development of the project, will succeed in the end.



1. Helm, J., & Remington, K. (2005). Effective sponsorship: An evaluation of the role of the executive sponsor in complex infrastructure projects by senior project managers. Project Management Journal.

2. Crawford, L., & Brett, C. (2001). Exploring the role of the project sponsor. InProceedings of the PMI New Zealand Annual Conference. PMINZ Wellington New Zealand.

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