Setting off on the right track – avoid derailing your project on day one!

The project team will be jointly responsible and accountable for achieving the project outcomes and producing the project deliverables during the life-cycle of the project. Getting the team bought into the task ahead is paramount. It is imperative to emphasize the importance of the project to the organisation and what their efforts will mean.

There are many approaches used by project managers to accomplish this.

One approach I have found valuable is getting the project sponsor to kick start the project. Why the sponsor?

Simple, do you want to set your project off on the right track and avoid derailing your project on day one! Thought so!

During the life of the project the sponsor’s role is critical. The sponsor provides overall vision and direction for the project. Typically a senior management-level person from a key business area, s(he) has the gravitas amongst his peers to resolve critical challenges and escalate issues at the highest level.

Not only is the sponsor the nominal owner and key customer of the project, but senior management will view that s(he) has ultimate responsibility for the success of the project. The sponsor is the one who delegates and empowers the members of the project team.

Would you agree that s(he) is a perfect choice?

Ideally during the project kick off the sponsor would provide a relatively brief “pitch” to the attendees. No more than 15 minutes. Followed by a short Q&A session to allow the attendees to probe the sponsor further.

The key messages that the sponsor needs to get across are:

  • Why are we doing this project?
  • What is (my) vision for the project?
  • Why is the project important to the organisation/business area?
  • What are the key benefits the organisation/business area expects to achieve from the project?
  • What commitment the organisation/business area has to the project?
  • What are the expectations on the project?
  • What are the key challenges faced by the project?
  • What the approach is to deliver the project?
  • When it all needs to be achieved (and why such a short time to do it in!)?

Above all demonstrate that s(he) has personal commitment to the project! Plus s(he) believes that the best people have been chosen to deliver it!

It might even be prudent to assist the sponsor in developing the pitch! A useful way of building rapport with your key project supporter.

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