Tag Archives: project executive

Book review: The Good Sponsor

product_thumbnail-php-2Jim Johnson, Standish Group, wrote the book ‘The good Sponsor’. The Standish Group already published The Executive Sponsor Research Report. And this book can be seen as a follow up and will help you to strengthen your skills to be a good project sponsor.

The main part of the book is built around 10 major attribute/skill areas and provides insights and best practises to become a good sponsor. The last part of the book includes  a summary, the history of the research and appendices talking about 21 perils of using consultants (Why not write a book about this Jim?) and a story on project saboteurs with a reference to the book The Project Saboteur.

The author sees the sponsor as a Clipper ship captain with skills like inspiration, hard work, imagination and fast decision making and many more. Compare Captain Richard Woodget of the Cutty Sark.

As a reference point for an excellent project sponsor we see the ideal captain. This ideal captain is positioned in the middle of the Captain Scale with five different functionalities (see the QRC picture with the Captain Scale/ Inspirational personality spectrum).

In this Captain Scale we see at both ends the poor-quality project sponsors: Mother hen and Deadbeat dad and in between the Nitpicker and Drifter.

The 10 major skills are (in order of importance):

  1. Inspiration
  2. Perspiration (aka hard work)
  3. Imagination
  4. Decisiveness
  5. Connection
  6. Emotional maturity
  7. Resourcefulness
  8. Nimbleness
  9. Driven
  10. Progression

dia1 To download: qrc-the-good-sponsor-161014-v1-0

Every skill has its own chapter and you get a deep dive into the skill and a decomposition in competences. E.g. perspiration includes commitment, optimization and sponsor bonds. For this specific bonding competency, a separate appendix gives you 25 questions to ask project managers to promote bonding. Besides the detailed explanation including many best practises, examples of good and bad sponsors, and examples how to improve executive sponsor skills, you will get some additional material like a related book that you might consider to read including a one-page summary, a quiz to test the specific skill based on the judgement of every competence (very skilled, skilled, moderately skilled and poorly skilled) and the fit on the inspirational personality spectrum for this skill. Every chapter ends with four exercises to improve the discussed skill.

Conclusion: definitely worthwhile to read if you are in the position of project sponsor and want to improve your own sponsor skills. I will include the outcome of this book in my own project board / sponsor awareness workshops.

The Chaos Group offers a project executive sponsorship Self-testing kit. The kit includes an assessment and benchmark as well as a calculation tool to estimate the time you will need to spend on the project to make it successful. See: www.standishgroup.com/goodsponsor.

To order: The good Sponsor

Book review: Executive sponsor research report

product_thumbnail.phpThe book ‘Executive sponsor research report’ from The Standish Group describes 50 skills or competences to be a successful project sponsor. Based on Standish’s data we see that 61% of successful projects have at least a highly skilled project sponsor, and that 70% of failed projects are managed by an organisation with a moderate to poorly skilled executive sponsor.

The Standish’s list of factors of success (2013) show executive sponsorship as the number one factor:

  • Executive management support
  • User involvement
  • Clear business objectives
  • Emotional maturity
  • Optimization
  • Agile process
  • Project management expertise
  • Skilled resources
  • Execution
  • Tools and infra structure

Executive sponsor personalities can be explained by the following types: deadbeat head (poor), drifter (moderate), captain (good), nitpicker (moderate) and mother hen (poor).

The rest of the book gives an overview of 50 skills. Each skill (skill 4 missing), one page, contains the definition of the skill and an explanation including examples.

50 skills are a lot. What I miss is some structure around these 50, maybe some clustering in categories.

To give it a try, I used the new IPMA Individual Competence Baseline ICB4 to align these 50 skills to the ICB4 competences.

Dia1Of course you could argue if I made the right choices but the overview shows that the 50 skills can be clustered using the ICB4 elements perspective, people and practice. It also shows that some skills can be combined. E.g.  skill 16: Making quick decisions and skill 46: Quick decisions or skill 37: Similar projects and skill 49: Past projects or skill 9: Outstanding effort rewards, skill 33: Celebrate accomplishments and skill 50: Celebrating party.

Looking from the other side you could ask why the ICB4 is not paying attention to this celebration part. It could also be interesting to see why ICB4 competences like People 7: Conflict and crisis, Perspective 5: Culture and values and Practices 9: Procurement and partnership, 12: Stakeholders, 13: Change and transformation are not part of the Executive Sponsor skills? But maybe they are embedded in one or more of the other skills.


If you are discussing or want to understand executive sponsor skills and competences this is definitely a book to use.

To order: Executive sponsor research report