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Project Manager : April May 2011
Project Manager 16 thought leaders lynn cRaWfoRd bond university Biography Lynn Crawford is Professor of Project Management at the Faculty of Business, technology and sustainable Development at Bond University, Queensland. she is also Managing Director of Human systems (asia Pacific). through Human systems, Crawford works with leading corporations that are developing organisational project management competence. Disasters always capture more attention than success stories, so it’s no surprise that project failures are widely reported – and it is generally assumed that the project manager is to blame. As a result, considerable focus has been placed on the role and competence of the project manager. Training programs, professional certification, academic qualifications and continuing professional development for project managers are available in abundance. Yet research groups such as Standish and Gartner continue to report high rates of project failure. One reason for this could be how we define success or failure. Rather than assuming the project manager is always at fault, we need to remember that projects are a team effort. Clients, customers, and owners, often represented by sponsors, also play an important part in the success of projects, and research into project success factors highlights the importance of top management support. Project managers operate in context and are dependent upon clients, customers, owners and sponsors for direction, decisions, authority, funding and resources. A well run, successful project is not a solo act. There is a song from the 1950s that reminds us it ‘takes two to tango’. A successful project requires both a good project manager and good organisational support and sponsorship. The sponsorship role The sponsorship role, regardless of the actual title, is well recognised and accepted as the person or group that provides the project manager’s authority, making investment decisions and providing direction. While project managers are either sent or go voluntarily to dancing lessons – building their skills and gaining qualifications – their sponsor partners rarely receive any training for their role. Some sponsors have a natural sense of rhythm and intuitively perform their role well. Others are reluctant partners and may even prefer not to dance. To increase the success of projects, we need to find ways of understanding and increasing the competence not only of project managers but also of their sponsors. effective sponsors To be effective, sponsors need to have credibility and authority. They will therefore generally be senior executives for whom sponsorship is a part-time activity. They are often required to sponsor multiple projects and programs, adding to an already challenging workload, and because they are engaged in general management they rarely have a background in project management. While many sponsors have no real understanding of what project management involves, the best project sponsors understand how it can help them achieve their own KPIs. The sponsorship role involves two key aspects: governance and support. As the link between corporate and project governance, the sponsor is required to provide leadership, direction, decisions and critical review of performance. They are responsible for ensuring that the project delivers what has been promised. Why most successful projects are a double act featuring the project manager who is supported by an effective sponsor. pRoJecT sponsoRship: it takes two to tanGo ThINkSTOCk
June July 2011