Tag Archives: sponsorship

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).


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

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