We Asked the Project Management Community: How Do You Set Boundaries with a Sponsor Who Micromanages?
We asked the project management community: How do you set boundaries with a sponsor who micromanages?
SEEK COMMON GROUND
“The perfect balance point does not exist, and in general, it's far better for the sponsor to be overly involved than under-involved. So treat the sponsor as a trusted collaborator: Be willing to explain why certain things are done in certain ways. Take advantage of opportunities when a sponsor's involvement can help resolve a difficult issue. Don't hide from the sponsor, which will only aggravate the situation. After all, you both have the same end goal in mind.”
—Wayne Mack, PMP, agile transformation coach, NTT Data, Chantilly, Virginia, USA
“Setting expectations from day one is essential. It should be clear to all stakeholders what their roles and responsibilities will be—and what communication channels will be used. I like to ensure weekly communication with sponsors to summarize the progress and show incremental value being released. As soon as a sponsor is satisfied by the results, he or she starts trusting the team and the project and does not see the need to micromanage.”
—Ana Cláudia Santos, agile project manager, XING, Porto, Portugal
“Having regular one-on-one sessions with the project sponsor is a great way to discuss any issues, requests and concerns. Also sharing the project notebook using a collaboration tool is a great resource for storing pertinent project information for review and follow-up. I would also seek advice from their advisers—you can identify those people in the stakeholder register—to determine if there are any additional strategies or tactics that can be used to strengthen the working relationship.”
—Salima Meghji, business development manager, PASH Financial, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Having an actively engaged executive sponsor helps improve project outcomes:
of organizations report that inadequate sponsor support is the primary cause of failed projects.
of completed initiatives include sponsors who actively support the project.
Room for Improvement
When it comes to developing skills for executive sponsors of projects, a majority of project professionals say their organization fails to make it a high-level priority:
Source: Pulse of the Profession, PMI, 2018
STICK TO THE PLAN
“Keeping the sponsor engaged in a non-hindering way depends on a lot of different factors, many of which can become clear during a stakeholder management analysis:
▪ What are the sponsor's motives for micro-managing behavior? Was the sponsor recently promoted from project manager to business manager? Did something happen in the past that impacted the sponsor's trust in a project manager to deliver the agreed scope within the agreed-upon time and budget?
▪ What organizational assets are at play within the company? Is this way of working perhaps part of the company's project management methodology?
No instruction will fit every situation, but analyzing the stakeholders and the environment—and making sure you document your agreements in the project communication plan—is a step in the right direction.”
—Ronny Louis, PMP, project manager, NR Partners, BVBA, Hasselt, Belgium
“You want to show appreciation for the sponsor's interest but also respect for his or her valuable time. So I would suggest agreeing ahead of time on which meetings the sponsor attends and what communications the sponsor will receive—emphasizing that he or she will always be aware of the relevant aspects. A very short summary of the communications plan with a clear matrix of sponsor participation and involvement can be a good tool for this purpose.”
—Giovanni Serrato, PMP, IT project manager, National University of Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia
RETARGET THE MESSAGE
“During a recent project, we had managers from different locations and with different responsibilities involved. There were many different meetings scheduled to satisfy everyone, but that was counterproductive. We turned it around by creating a project management plan with a special focus on stakeholder, scope and communication management. Among other things, we created an internal steering committee meeting for key stakeholders, and we shared meeting minutes and progress reports so everyone had access to critical information. By improving the communication structure, we reduced the level of micromanagement and helped build trust in the team so experts could focus on the root-cause analysis and solutions.”
—Tiago Mateus, PMP, senior project manager, Bosch Car Multimedia, Braga, Portugal
What's one essential step you've taken to hone your leadership skills?
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