Conflict resolution

The role of the project sponsor takes on different dimensions based on the life-cycle phase the project is in. During the planning/initiation phase of a project, the sponsor normally functions in an active role, which includes such activities as:

• Assisting the project manager in establishing the correct objectives for the project

• Providing the project manager with information on the environmental/political factors that could influence the project's execution

• Establishing the priority for the project (either individually or through consultation with other executives) and informing the project manager of the established priority and the reason for the priority

• Providing guidance for the establishment of policies and procedures by which to govern the project

• Functioning as the executive-client contact point

During the initiation or kickoff phase of a project, the project sponsor must be actively involved in setting objectives and priorities. It is absolutely mandatory that the executives establish the priorities in both business and technical terms.

During the execution phase of the project, the role of the executive sponsor is more passive than active. The sponsor will provide assistance to the project manager on an as-needed basis except for routine status briefings.

During the execution stage of a project, the sponsor must be selective in the problems that he or she wishes to help resolve. Trying to get involved in every problem will not only result in severe micromanagement, but will undermine the project manager's ability to get the job done.

The role of the sponsor is similar to that of a referee. Table 10-1 shows the working relationship between the project manager and the line managers in both mature and immature organizations. When conflicts or problems exist in the project-line interface and cannot be resolved at that level, the sponsor might find it necessary to step in and provide assistance. Table 10-2 shows the mature and immature ways that a sponsor interfaces with the project.

It should be understood that the sponsor exists for everyone on the project, including the line managers and their employees. Project sponsors must maintain open-door policies, even though maintaining an open-door policy can have detrimental effects. First, employees may flood the sponsor with trivial items. Second, employees may feel that they can bypass levels of management and converse directly with the sponsor. The moral here is that employees, including the project manager, must be encouraged to be careful about how many times and under what circumstances they "go to the well."

In addition to his/her normal functional job, the sponsor must be available to provide as-needed assistance to the projects. Sponsorship can become a time-consuming effort, especially if problems occur. Therefore, executives are limited as to how many projects they can sponsor effectively at the same time.

As an organization matures in project management, executives begin to trust middle-and lower-level management to function as sponsors. There are several reasons for supporting this:

• Executives do not have time to function as sponsors on each and every project.

• Not all projects require sponsorship from the executive levels.

• Middle management is closer to where the work is being performed.

• Middle management is in a better position to provide advice on certain risks.

• Project personnel have easier access to middle management.

Sometimes executives in large diversified corporations are extremely busy with strategic planning activities and simply do not have the time to properly function as a sponsor. In such cases, sponsorship falls one level below senior management.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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