Should You Get Your Project Sponsor Involved?

by Payson Hall

Imagine you own Mirror Construction Company, and Carlos is one of your project managers.

One of your company’s projects is remodeling your own house. You decided to get that fancy kitchen you wanted. You detailed your requirements for Carlos and got cost and schedule estimates. Then you left town on vacation.

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Specifications call for a specific marble for the counters. When Carlos contacts the supplier, he discovers the desired marble is backordered and unavailable for four weeks. What should Carlos do?

A. Delay the project four weeks

B. Find marble available that is a close match and use that

C. Pay a $5,000 premium to obtain the marble on schedule from another source

D. Other

Multiple-choice tests are frustrating because the best answer is sometimes “It depends.” There is often missing context you can imagine that might favor one answer over another.

People tend to interpret this scenario in one of two ways:

  • If you assume the question meant “What would you (the owner) tell Carlos to do?” then whatever you answered is correct.
  • If you assume (as I intended) the question meant “What should Carlos do with this information?” then I think the best answer is “D.” In this case, the correct thing to do would be to contact you and find out what you want.

Let’s consider this scenario again, except with one difference: the project will be done for one of your customers. What should Carlos do this time?

A. Delay the project four weeks

B. Find marble available that is a close match and use that

C. Pay a $5,000 premium to obtain the marble on schedule from another source

D. Discuss these options with the customer

E. Other

I’m asking what Carlos should do. I believe the best answer is “E,” which in this case would be “Contact you, as the owner of the company, to discuss which options to present to the customer.”

You are the project sponsor in both scenarios. Carlos is like the project manager. The customer is a very important stakeholder, but not the sponsor. Carlos may be missing important information:

  • You may have a big project starting next month that would compete with this one for resources if this project slipped
  • The customer may have a much larger project on the drawing board that you hope to bid on, and you may wish to avoid a cost overrun that might jeopardize that work. You might be inclined to absorb or heavily discount the $5,000 premium for the right marble

Project sponsors represent the strategic voice of the organization doing the project, and they should be consulted before any significant decisions are made to assure the decisions align with the organization’s goals.

Project managers get paid to identify options. Sponsors get paid to choose among them. Are your project managers making decisions that should be made by your sponsor?

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Originally published at www.techwell.com.