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Working with Your Project Sponsor

Working TogetherYour Ally: The Project Sponsor

Managing your relationship with your project sponsor is key to your success with managing your project. A strong, active sponsor can make a positive difference for the program or project. A project sponsor who may be funding the effort can be the “big stick” when you need someone with authority to make a decision or influence key project team members. Continuously building a relationship with your project sponsor will better position your project for success.


As a program or project manager you should always manage to the expectations of your project sponsor. You should have regular communications with him or her and ensure that the right level of program or project information is provided on a consistent basis. This is key to your relationship.

Many project sponsors are executives and may not want a too detailed report regarding the status of the program or project. Project sponsors will require a high-level status that captures key details regarding schedule, cost, key risks and issues threatening the project. When providing a status on key risks and issues an action plan to address these items should always be presented.

Too Active or Too Passive  Project Sponsor

There will be times were you face a project sponsor who is either too active or too passive. A sponsor who is too active might provide challenges to the project team. The project sponsor might try to micro manage the effort and create additional project overhead. To manage your relationship with an over active sponsor it is important to adjust your style to the needs of the project sponsor when possible. This can be done with capturing and documenting detailed expectations from the project sponsor and managing to those expectations. In addition, make it clear upfront to the project sponsor of any issues or limitations regarding their expectations.

When building your relationship with a passive project sponsor it is important to maintain proper documentation regarding decisions you need to or have made. In addition, make sure you understand what authority you have as the program or project manager. I say this because passive project sponsors will have a tendency to defer to the program or project manager. Make sure you cover yourself in case any decisions you have made are questioned.

Managing Your Project Sponsor Relationship Conclusion:

  • Know your project sponsor, their expectations and their style
  • Be flexible with your project sponsor – adjust your style and approach when necessary
  • Maintain consistent communication with your sponsor
  • Build a strong relationship with your project sponsor