Tag Archives: project sponsor

Podcast: Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2

Honored to be interviewed by Allan Thomson about one of my latest books Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2.

The book Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 can be ordered by:




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: The Dead Presidents’ Guide to Project Management. Essential lessons for project managers and sponsors

presJim Johnson wrote the book The Dead Presidents’ Guide to Project Management. Essential lessons for project managers and sponsors.

It considers 38 brief lessons from George Washington to Ronald Reagan.

The president of the United States must be a good project manager as well as a good project sponsor.

  • Good project manager: uses domain knowledge, skills, tools and techniques, is a servant-leader, must have skills to influence, to work enthousiastically, is goal oriented, must have good connections, is a good negotiater, delivers bad news early and bravely, provides solutions and is truthful;
  • Good project sponsor: must inspire people, is enthusiastic, must have imagination, must have clarity of purpose, can effectively distribute decision power, and understands the process of government and influence to get anything done.

For every president we get an illustration by Kayla Johnson, a three page introduction and lesson focussing on specific competences you need as a project manager or project sponsor and a quote.

E.g. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He used an iterative process and methodology when building his home Monticello. He was not afraid to tear something down and enforced change management. His apprach was to develop new features in small, unobtrusive increments. When did we say that agile started?

I summarized the quotes in attached figure including pictures of all dead presidents (download: dead presidents).


Review: The Effective Project board. Keeping projects and programmes on target

9789491490040-240x300The Effective Project board. Keeping projects and programmes on target written by Jan Postema.

This book is divided in two parts. The first part is about the theory behind project boards (project governance, strategy alignment, project manager world, project boards and project success and roles and responsibilities) and the second part describes the practical implementation of the project board (how to secure a project and how to prepare your organisation). As a red thread throughout the book you will find a case about a quality management system implementation project. In the first part we see how they started and operated as board members and in the second part what needs to be changed, in the project board, to make it a success.

As I am running, from time to time, what I call project board awareness workshops, related project board books always have my special attention. After reading this book I will add some topics to my workshops. E.g. the introspective questions to check if I am eligible for a project board as well as the usage of the eligibility chart. Thanks for that.

Part I: the theory

In the first chapter the author focusses on the rationale fort his book. As the author said there is hardly any publication on project boards. At the end of this post you can find a list of related project board / project sponsor related reviews on my blog. The book only talks about changing the business by the temporary projects and programmes and not about managing changes by permanent teams in a business as usual part of the organization

The second chapter positions projects in an organization. Projects need to serve a strategic goal, are aligned with the strategy and are intertwined with the organization. From that perspective the project governance needs to fit within the wider governance framework (Relationships, change, people, finance, viability and sustainability).

Chapter three puts the project board in the spotlights. Project boards embody management support. The Standish Group, as well as many other research put top management support as the number 1 for project success. A Project board bridges the gap between change and business as usual and are the extension of the organisation’s governance. The chapter gives a list of several sources of dissatisfaction with project boards. The author also gives an explanation of Best Value Procurement (BVP) and the consequences for the project board. If you look at the performance (low, high) and perceived competition (low, high) you can see four procurement methods: Price-Based (low, high), Best-Value (high, high), Negotiated Bid (high, low) and Unstable (low, low).

The next chapter shows that project boards bridge different worlds. Functional versus matrix, formal and informal, hybrid, and managers with different objectives. The project board manager (authority, interlocutor) and project manager (expert, aide-de-camp) must have a clear view on each other’s role perceptions (acceptance, commitment, service provisioning, trust).

Chapter five explains how project boards relate to project success by explaining their functions. The author gives and explains several pitfalls for project boards (indecisiveness, micro managing, lack of trust, too much trust, …). The chapter ends with an overview of different types of project boards (Advisory board, Counselling board, Sounding board, Interest group and Project board) by looking at configuration, responsibility, authority, organisation and decision process.

The last chapter of part I looks at a few roles with many responsibilities within the project board. The project board’s functions are direction setting, rationing, structuring & staffing and advising & auditing. The author follows PRINCE2 by explaining three kinds of board members: executive, senior user and senior supplier. The project manager is not part of the project board. The author sees the sponsor not as a separate role but as a needed quality of all board members and gives an overview of the sponsor’s responsibilities. Tensions in the project board are probably the most conspicuous. Sources of tension are organizing principles, employee identification, access to resources, organizational size and complexity, external pressure, relationships and tasks or processes.

Part II:

Chapter 7 describes the first step to get the project back on track. It starts with a board decision tree to decide what type of project board you need. As a next step you need to understand if the right project board members have been selected. A nice tool is the eligibility chart based on Bourne’s Stakeholder cycle. In this tool you score for each project board member the following items: proximity, urgency, power, direction of influence, interest and support. The total score gives you the eligibility. In the appendix you get the complete eligibility chart including the individual score descriptions. And be aware, a project board must be there from the start, it can’t jump onto a moving train.

Chapter 8 focusses on the second step: prepare the ground. Make your organization ready to work with project boards. You get some rules of thumb for initiating a project board, principles for the composition of a project board and a very simple tool to access if an individual candidate project board member is eligible to join a project board based on a decision tree with introspective questions. When project boards are up and running, measure their project board’s performance.

The book ends with an epilogue summarizing the four aids starting with the rules of thumb, then looking into the principles and introspective questions and finally the eligibility chart.


The book is definitely worth reading, gave me some new helpful insights and as stated I will use some during my project board awareness workshops.

For a next print I would suggest to include explanations for the figures used. Some are self explanatory but not all.

To order: The effective project board

Available reviews on project sponsorship and/or project boards:

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

Project sponsorship, achieving management commitment for project success

sponsorPMI just published the second edition of Project sponsorship, achieving management commitment for project success by Randall Englund and Alfonso Bucero. This book is, in my opinion, a thorough guide to educate stakeholders on the nature of project sponsorship. If we listen to Gartner, Standish, McKinsey and many more one of the key factors for successful projects is commitment of your sponsor. The authors give you many ingredients to make project sponsorship a success.

Dia1To download the QRC: Project sponsorship (QRC, 151112) v1.0

The book is divided in ten chapters focussing on different aspects of project sponsorship and has an extensive appendix with lots of checklists and questionnaires. Every chapter contains one or more case studies to clarify what is discussed.

The first chapter defines sponsor responsibilities, which are needed to make the project a success by creating the right environment for the project manager to be successful. In the appendix you can find several views on different roles and a set of questions regarding client-based sponsorship.

The second chapter focuses on the establishment of project sponsorship and shows what it means for different types of organizations in terms of maturity and culture. To establish effective project sponsors takes time. In the appendix you will find a sponsor influence assessment questionnaire.

The next chapter describes how to sustain sponsorship. Without a strong commitment from the sponsor to improve, the sponsor will not survive. And without the help of project managers in getting sponsors to fulfil there role as sponsors it will be difficult. The appendix gives a quality review process chart, a sponsor reviewer set of questions and an overview of characteristics of strong sponsorship.

The fourth chapter is about building and sustaining relationships between sponsor and project manager, clients and providers and the more specific the sponsor role in this relationship building.

Chapter five emphasises on business teams. Business teams are steering committees, project or programme boards. These teams are there to direct and not manage the project. For me this is the weakest chapter of the book. Directing a project and managing a project portfolio are different things and ask for different decision making bodies. In my opinion the authors don’t make the difference. Also I have my doubts if you have to add all main project stakeholders in the project board. I would say all major stakeholder interest must be safeguarded in the board but don’t make the board too big. This will have a negative impact on the speed of decision-making.

The next two chapters focus on evaluation the sponsorship culture and coaching and feedback. In the appendix you get a sponsor evaluation tool a sponsor risk assessment survey and feedback questionnaire, assessment tool and action plan.

Chapter eight is about developing sponsors by creating specific training or awareness workshops and the role of a PMO in this. In the appendix you can find a sponsorship development memo of understanding.

Chapter nine describes the benefits of sharing knowledge, the added value of mentoring and lessons learned from regular reviews.

The last chapter talks about leading the way to achieve results in a political environment. What does it mean if you have to lead with (personal) power? How will your political plan looks like if you want to achieve results? Who are your comrades, allies, adversaries and opponents? In the appendix you find a sample political plan.


This book is a must read for project sponsors. It will definitely help you to get a much better idea of the role of the project sponsor and what you can, or have to do, to make your project a success.

To order: Project Sponsorship

Book review: Successful project sponsorship

9780749474249-240x300Michiel van der Molen sent me his new book ‘Successful Project Sponsorship. A time-saver for the busy executive’. Finally I would say. I used to give his Dutch book as background information to participants of my workshops about directing projects or project sponsorship. But when it was a non-Dutch speaking group I had to say: ‘at this moment there is no corresponding English book’.

Now the book is there, I can say it was worthwhile to wait. The result is, as I would expect from Michiel, a great book, easy to read and really practical.

Being involved (reviewing, advising) with several versions of his Dutch book about sponsorship (it’s now the fifth version) I can see the evolution of the book. The first versions were focusing on PRINCE2 for executives, the fifth version was more generic but uses the terminology of PRINCE2 and ISO21500 and this English version was rewritten using the PMBoK terminology but keeping the good things of PRINCE2 like the business case, senior user and senior supplier roles, management stages, tolerances, management by exception etc. This doesn’t mean the book is only useful for PMBoK users. On the contrary, this book is suitable for all involved in directing projects, independently of the project management method being used.

This book is divided into three parts and a set of appendices. The first part covers the four principles of successful project sponsorship and the second part goes into some details and gives advice in the areas of the roles within the steering committee, how to direct a project manager, how to realize benefits, achieving quality, uncertainties and some more. On many places you will get tips for agile projects and tips for the PRINCE2 environment. These two parts forms the heart of the book and are in line with the fifth version of the corresponding Dutch book.

The four principles are key if you want to be a successful sponsor of a project. In the attached figure (download: 4 principles) you see the four principles for successful ownership, what they provide, offer or contribute to and some advises. Two principles are business related and two project related.

  1. Share the business case
  2. Organize ownership
  3. Focus on deliverables
  4. Empower the project manager


The third part of this book: ‘Advancing project sponsorship in organizations’ as well as the appendices are completely new in relation to the Dutch fifth version. The third part will help you to introduce, embed and improve project sponsorship in your own organization. Why is it so difficult, what challenges do you have to overcome? What approach can you use and what type of training courses and workshops can you develop/offer in project sponsorship advancement programmes.

In the appendices you get overviews from PMBoK, PRINCE2 and Agile and an overview of the main responsibilities and accountabilities related to the direction of projects and divided across the project manager, senior supplier, senior user and project sponsor.

Conclusion: If you are looking for a practical English book on project sponsorship this is a must have. I am going to use this book in my workshops for project board members and sponsors.

If I look at the draft ISO21505 standard on Project, Programme and Portfolio Management – Guidance on Governance, I get an overview of the responsibilities of the project governance body and as far as I can see this book is in line with this draft standard.

To order Michiel’s book: Successful project sponsorship

Project sponsor commitment

pmi-exec-sponsor-engagementThe Project Success Scan showed that in 65% of the recorded projects, there is no support or active promotion by top management. See related posts.

A recent report “Executive sponsor engagement, top driver of project and programme success” from PMI and BCG uncovers three primary factors that can limit or inhibit sponsors’ ability to be effective: an organizational culture that leads to sponsors being overextended; inefficient communication; and lack of professional development of sponsors.

This PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report addresses these factors and used feedback from 897 project management professionals and 232 project executive sponsors.

Some key takeaways that lead to better project outcomes:

The areas where executive sponsors most help projects and programmes:

  • Rallying support of senior management;
  • Intervention on escalated issues;
  • Removal of roadblocks;
  • Stakeholder management;
  • Championing the project.

The most important project sponsor skills:

  • The ability to influence stakeholders;
  • The ability to work across different stakeholder groups to find win-win solutions;
  • Leadership;
  • Decision making;
  • Effective communications.

Definitely a must read for project executives and project / programme managers.

To download the report, follow the link to PMI’s website: Executive sponsor engagement

Book review: Directing Change, Sponsoring Change, Co-Directing Change

photo-1APM, Association for Project Management, offers small APM knowledge booklets covering interesting topics in the field of project, programme and portfolio management. I received three related booklets:

  • Directing change. A guide to governance of project management;
  • Sponsoring change. A guide to the governance aspects of project sponsorship;
  • Co-directing change. A guide to the governance of multi-owned projects.

The first book, Directing change, explains how good governance requirements apply to the direction and management of your organisation’s portfolio. The governance of project management (GoPM) is a subset of the activities involved with corporate governance. You get an overview of 13 principles identified for the governance of project management. E.g. the organisation differentiates between projects and non project-based activities or project stakeholders are engaged at a level that commensurate with their importance to the organisation and in a manner that fosters trust. To comply with these 13 GoPM principles you get 44 practical questions that should help you to understand what you have to do to be compliant. These questions are grouped around four main components:

  • Portfolio direction; to ensure that all projects are identified within the one, sustainable portfolio;
  • Project sponsorship; to ensure that project sponsorship is the effective link between the organisation’s management board and the management of each project;
  • Project management capability; to ensure that the teams responsible for projects are capable of achieving the objectives;
  • Disclosure and reporting; to ensure that the content of project reports will provide timely, relevant and reliable information.

The second book, Sponsoring change, offers you practices regarding, or a framework for project sponsorship and more specific the governance aspects of the role of project sponsor (In other methodologies called project executive, project owner, senior responsible owner, business programme owner, business sponsor, etc.). The book explains:

  • Why every project needs a sponsor;
  • The organisational context;
  • The attributes for successful sponsorship;
  • What a sponsor does for the management board, the project manager and other stakeholders.

Dia1I often have discussions about responsibilities of the project sponsor and you probably too and this is a handsome overview to use. I summarized these activities of a project sponsor in a one pager. To download: Sponsor (responsibilities, 140921) v1.0

In the appendices you get a checklist to select a project sponsor and sponsorship checklists covering the governance responsibilities.

The third book, Co-directing change, answers the key question “How can boards be assured that appropriate governance arrangements are in place for projects in which they share ultimate control with other parties?” This booklet follows the same structure as the first book, Directing change. It starts with the overview of governance of multi-owned projects (GoMOP) and gives a set of 12 principles that an owning board should apply in every multi-owned project. E.g. unified decision-making or resolution of conflict. To comply with these 12 GoMOP principles you get 60 practical questions that should help you to understand what you have to do to be compliant. These questions are grouped around six main components:

  • Alignment; to ensure that the project is established in such a way that the succeeding components can have the effect expected;
  • Owning-organisation sponsorship; to ensure that there is an effective link between the senior governing body of each owning organisation and the management of the project;
  • Project management; to ensure that the team responsible for managing the project is capable of achieving the defined objectives;
  • Disclosure and reporting; to ensure that provision, sharing and use of information is supportive;
  • Risk and reward; to ensure clarity about the benefits and potential risk for owners and is essential to a sound governance structure;
  • Joining and leaving; to ensure that arrangements are in place to govern changes in ownership.

In the appendices you get an overview of multi-owned project models (e.g. joint venture, bidding consortium, alliance contracting, etc.) and the relationship between the principles and SOX.

If you are struggling with sponsor responsibilities in your organisation, these small booklets are definitely worth reading.

To order: apm publications

Book review: Being the project sponsor. A practical guide for executives

20695bbowI just came across a book about project sponsors. Being the project sponsor. A practical guide for executives by Ten Gevers and Bart Hoitink.

After reading the first pages, I was a little bit disappointed. Not because of what I had read but because of the fact that this was not a new book but a translation of their book Opdrachtgeven met resultaat. Handreiking voor opdrachtgevers aan projecten. That book was published in 2009 and besides one skipped paragraph about sponsorship in public organizations, this book is just a translation. To present this book as a first edition, 2014 without making any remarks or references to the old Dutch book is somewhat misleading. But looking back at my review in 2009, it’s still worthwhile for my English readers to give a review.


As the authors stated, there are not that many books on project executives or sponsors.

To give a few (Dutch and English) including links to reviews on this blog:

Let’s now go back to their book Being the project sponsor. The book has been divided in eleven chapters (including an introduction). Every chapter ends with a checklist in the form of a mind map and five tips for the project sponsor.

The first two chapters focus on the project sponsor, his/her tasks and responsibilities. The next 5 chapters elaborate on the activities (how, when, with what) of the project sponsor during the life cycle of a project (from start to closure).

The last three chapters discuss the organization of project sponsorship in an organization, special forms of sponsorship and acting consciously. Three appendices regarding building blocks for the business case, core elements of a project plan and a health-check project sponsorship.


Chapter 2 Who is the project sponsor? gives you insights in different types of project sponsors e.g. the specialist, the passer-by, the elected project sponsor, the board and their corresponding consequences for the project or organization. The chapter explains the key characteristics of a project sponsor: a single, prominent person with sufficient commitment and time to do the job, with sufficient authority and being a well-balanced personality. Chapter 3 What does a project sponsor do? explains the focus of the project sponsor (what and why) as well as the project manager (How) including the related responsibilities (RACI). Also the consequence of being a project sponsor as well as a line manager and the potential dilemmas of project sponsorship in practice are explained. E.g. are you as a project sponsor at close quarters or remote, will you focus on the content or the process.


Chapter 4 to 8 will follow the project life cycle. It starts with the birth of a project. It’s the project sponsor who must set vision, goals, and expectations. He/She must make sure the deliverables are SMARTI described (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, Transparent, Inspiring). Here we will build the business case to have an instrument for decision-making, communication and to direct. This step will end with the formulation of the assignment for the project manager.

Chapter 5 Focussing the project starts with the selection of the right project manager, the assessment of the project plan, containing the seven wh-questions (why, what, which way, who, with what, where and when) and determining the boundaries.

Chapter 6 Organising the teamwork is about the communication, the set up of a project board or steering committee, the project deliverable matrix, the stakeholder involvement and project assurance. As stated earlier in the review about their Dutch book, these topics, in my opinion must already be addressed during the focussing or initiation part of the project.

Chapter 7 Keeping the ship on course shows what you have to do to make the project a success. You must show your involvement, monitor progress, take timely decisions and keep your project manager and yourself focussed. I am going to use the picture with the iceberg regarding monitoring progress during my project board awareness workshops. It’s a nice picture to trigger some discussions (thanks for that). Above the water you see e.g. the business case, scope, risk, progress reports and under water you get a self-evaluation of yourself and your relationship with your project manager and the analysis of stakeholders (process and project).

The last chapter (8) in this block Concluding the project is about the, sometimes premature, project closure. It starts with the finalization and handover of the project products and the business case to get clarity about the benefits to be realized after going ‘life’. Followed by the evaluation and termination of the project including the formal release of the project manager and yourself as a project sponsor.


The last three chapters give you insight in some related topics. Chapter 9 Organizing project sponsorship gives insights how sponsorship can be governed or supported. How are projects positioned or anchored in the organization. Do you have to do it all by yourself or can you delegate project sponsorship, what is the impact of portfolio management and what kind of support can you get from different types of project offices. Chapter 10 Special forms of project sponsorship gives some background of working with multiple parties; the consortium, international project sponsorship, sponsoring a programme and some other forms of collaboration. The last chapter (11) From plan to action explains issues which influences project sponsorship. Based on the triangle dimensions (project, context and project manager) relate to you as a person. Project sponsorship is a personal matter and all dimensions must be balanced in themselves and in relation to the others to be successful. You can base your opinion on a set of questions and see where you have to take action or influence before you go ahead with the project.

The book is easy to read, doesn’t overload you with theoretical background and gives you practical tips, guidelines and step-by-step plans to make your project sponsorship a success.