What do champions, sponsors, and project managers do?

What makes an effective Champion?

A Champion is typically the highest-level person accountable to lead the strategic objective targeted by the project.

  • The Champion will select the project, resource the team and provide needed direction for the project.
  • Their role is to select and sponsor ‘doable’, significant projects and to provide infrastructure, support and resources as required to complete the project.
  • An active Champion will hold regular pulsing sessions with project leaders and teams. When the team is not progressing due to a barrier that either they raise to the Champion, or which the Champion observes is impeding their progress, the Champion must become involved to assist the team.
  • The Champion will also hold the team accountable for results. They do this by using performance goals to ensure business leaders are on board and that the work is meaningful for the organization.
  • The Champion is also the official cheerleader with peers and other executives, directors and leaders. They will report as frequently as possible progress being made to these other leaders.
  • The most effective Champions commit to becoming and staying involved. They are excellent listeners and Sponsors an environment where teams are comfortable updating them on progress as well as barriers.
  • Ideally, a Champion will exhibit effective communication and influence skills, both written and verbal.

What makes an effective Sponsor?

The project sponsor typically owns the area in which the project resides and works for the Champion. They are accountable for project results and ongoing continuous improvement after the initial project is complete.

  • In fact, the sponsor is often responsible for many of the team members on the project team.
  • To be effective, the sponsor will hold frequent (biweekly at a minimum) pulsing sessions with project leaders and teams to understand progress and hold teams accountable for moving the project along. 
  • The sponsor has a key role in assisting teams to remove barriers. 
  • The sponsor’s encouragement of the team is a critical factor in their constant progress. Typically, team members will become drained at some point in their project. Often infighting can occur as can lethargy or confusion when the path forward is unclear.
  • The sponsor should have good communication skills and will need to communicate frequently both up and out in their organization (up the leadership chain and out to their peers) to drive results. 
  • A sponsor’s outlook is important.  Effective sponsors will see the project as offering an opportunity to improve his/her area of responsibility and will want to be an active participant. In fact, they will be eager to learn along with the team.
  • An effective sponsor will be an advocate for change and will try not to ‘hang onto’ the status quo. They will assist the team in breaking down the mentality that others in the process might have of not wanting it to change.
  • The Sponsor will be an active listener and will work to strengthen their own and the team’s knowledge by asking honest questions and encouraging the team to use data to determine the answers.
  • Finally, the sponsor should visibly hold him or herself, along with the team, accountable to deliver results.

What is the role of the project manager with the champion and sponsor?

The project manager communicates frequently with the champion and sponsor to inform them of project status, involve them for decision making and provides communication to ensure they have what they need for messaging. Effective project managers continue to improve their ability to deliver value.

Projects drive change aimed at moving the organization from one state to another in order to achieve a specific objective.

For some projects, this may involve creating a transition state where multiple steps are created along a continuum in order to achieve the final state.

Value is created when a net quantifiable benefit is derived from the effort. This benefit may be tangible or intangible. Examples include:

  • Monetary assets
  • Stockholder equity
  • Market share
  • Brand recognition
  • Goodwill
  • Utility improvements
  • Trademarks
  • Reputation
  • Publicity
  • Improvement in morale

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