6 Reasons Why the New Book “Strategies for Project Sponsorship” Will Be an Instant PM Classic

A Review of Strategies for Project Sponsorship, by Vicki James, Ron Rosenhead, and Peter Taylor (Management Concepts Press, 2013)

 Strategies for Project Sponsorship is a unique blend of practical, step-by-step tools; hard-won wisdom from the PM trenches; and solid, research-based recommendations. As a PM author reading this book, I found myself in awe of how nimbly the authors weaved together seemingly disparate elements: here citing research findings, there providing war stories or case study examples, and finally pivoting to morph these into powerful, ready-to-use tools. As someone who’s both managed projects and trained project managers for more than three decades, I know this for certain:

This book should be in every project manager’s tool kit and in every project sponsor’s briefcase. Here are six reasons I believe this book will become an instant PM classic:

 1. It shares powerful PM wisdom, based on real-world experience, regarding the subtle and nuanced process of sponsoring a project. A few sample topics:
  • What is Project Sponsorship?
  • The Sponsor’s Role
  • What Do the Professionals Say?
  • Who Does What and When?
  • Who Should Sponsor Your Project?
2. It provides insights that are typically unavailable to project managers without spending years gaining experience and acquiring scar tissue!  Some sample topics:
  • The types of power that are needed to manage a project and a framework for evaluating whether this power is available via the sponsor or project manager
  • A series of case study interviews in which "candidate sponsors" reveal their potential value to the project by the way they answer key questions
  • Pros and cons of various ways to influence your sponsor (e.g., through appeals to logic, friendship, deal-making, values, allegiance, etc.)
  • How to give your sponsor feedback (including a sample back & forth dialogue) and how to handle bad news)
  • How to deal with several types of “challenging” sponsors , including the symptoms, prognosis, and prescriptions for dealing with sponsors who are absent, busy, uninterested, inexperienced, untrained, and more.
  • How to deal with influential stakeholders (senior managers, others) who can be uniquely engaged via sponsor involvement with them.
3. It provides practical, easy-to-use tools for project managers.  Examples:
  • The Sponsor Responsibilities Evaluation Tool (Helps you evaluate your sponsor)
  • The Project Manager Evaluation Tool (Helps you evaluate your ability to work you’re your sponsor)
  • An agenda for the first meeting with the sponsor (along with tips on how to position and use this)
  • Stakeholder matrix (describing roles, risks, impact on project, how to manage the stakeholder
  • Step-by-step guide to creating  an influence map (showing organizational power related to your project and how it flows among key stakeholders and how your sponsor can work with this)
  • The Definitive Project Manager Checklist
4.  It does what every project manager has always wanted to do: It gently, but firmly, educates project sponsors about their crucial role. Sample topics relating to sponsor responsibilities and best practices include:
  • Providing Direction and Guidance
  • Helping Develop the Project Charter
  • Identifying and Quantifying Business Benefits to Be Achieved
  • Making Go/No-Go Decisions
  • Negotiating Funding for the Project
  • Chairing the Project Steering Committee
  • Assisting with the Resolution of Interproject Boundary Issues
  • Supporting the Project Manager in Conflict Resolution
  • Making the Project Visible Within the Organization
  • Advising the Project Manager About Protocols, Political Issues, and Potential Sensitivities
  • Evaluating the Project’s Success Upon Completion
5. It provides practical, easy-to-use tools for project sponsors.  For example:
  • Sponsor Responsibility Improvement Needs Assessment (a self-check)
  • The Definitive Project Sponsor Checklist
  • The 50 Secrets to Being A Good Executive Sponsor
6. It is firmly grounded in research.  Specifically, 
  • An extensive original survey: The Strategies for Project Sponsorship Survey
  • The Standish Group’s CHAOS Manifesto 2012: The Year of the Executive Sponsor


Reading this book, I had two voices in my head repeatedly proclaiming enthusiastically: 
  • "Yes!  That’s right! I know exactly what they’re saying. I learned that same lesson myself via the School of Hard Knocks on the [XYZ] project a few years ago."
  • "Wow! What a great resource! This is the tool I’ve always needed, but didn’t realize I was missing!"
My recommendation: If you manage projects, get a copy of Strategies for Project Sponsorship for yourself. And then get one for all your project sponsors.

(Prediction: Within one year of the publication of this book, PMI will form a committee to create a certification for project sponsors. Within two years that certification will be officially unleashed. Soon thereafter a hoard of consultants and trainers will create a cottage industry devoted to the training of sponsors so they may attain the certification.  [Sound far fetched? Remember the home-qrown Agile movement? Hmmm...]  I take some comfort in the knowledge that these consultants and trainers will likely be using this text as their primary source! :-) )

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