It Takes Two To Tango

It Takes Two To Tango

The Role of the Executive or Sponsor in Project Success

A director , let us call him Jad assigned a project manager (Sam) on a critical initiative. Sam was not able to make decisions regarding resources, finance, change, time and he was strictly required to keep the client happy and never say no to him. Sam tried to speak to Jad to get the needed resources and support, but Jad was either on travel or simply not available because of his busy schedule. Sam, being a professional tried his best, only to end up with a failing project. Jad then blamed Sam and kicked him out, and brought one of the most respected, experienced and seasoned project managers as his replacement - Farid.

Farid negotiated his contract before signing with Jad, but his requests were not the norm Jad is used to such as package, insurance, vacations and what not. Farid asked Jad to provide three things, as condition for his joining:

1.  Define Jad’s Role to Support Farid and the project
2.  Agree on the specific delegation of authority sanctioned by Jad for Farid
3.  Set Capacity Building Plan for all team, including Jad himself

Wow, Farid has guts, but he actually knows what he is talking about. Jad on the other hand, did not appreciate anyone putting conditions on him, as he is accustomed to obedience and compliance. Eventually those who do not comply , he fires them, while those who do like Sam and eventually fail their projects are also blamed and kicked out. In this scenario, everyone is wrong except Jad.

Now Jad is not very comfortable, because the new regulations and policies mandate results, so he agreed to listen to Farid:

1.  Define Jad’s Role to Support Farid and the project: Jad is required to provide actual Sponsorship, Leadership and Support. He is required to provide the required finance, resources and facilitate collaboration from other units. Jad is required to be actually engaged, attend weekly meetings and receive emergency calls, and help in organizational politics. All these are rather new to Jad.

2.  Farid demanded formal delegation in a document he called Project Charter that defines the monetary limit for what Farid can spend, and how he can get the approved resources and budget, and manage change. After a specific limit, the delegation policy designates higher authorities involvement in timely manner. In brief, Jad thought Farid will become the General Manager for the project, which is first of its kind.

3.  The Capacity Building proposition set by Farid focused on the executive training workshops Jad should attend! He requested that Jad learns the following:

a.  Leadership & Team Building

b.  Governance & Management Frameworks

c.   Portfolio Management for Realizing Organizational Strategy

d.  Transformational Change Management

Eventually, Farid laid it out: Statistics show 80% for the reasons of failure (and success) are due to the executive or project sponsor, while only 20% due to the project manager. It takes two to Tango. Project Managers have been learning and getting certifications, but not executives. The only way executives can be engaged is to learn; learn how to delegate, support, and genuinely be engaged. Jad approved, and things became much better.

How many similar Farid and Jad you know who tangoed well together?

The following presents an innovative executive workshop approach for your own Jad!

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Written by Dr. Saadi 22 January, 2017 - Edited 08 January, 2019