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Changing ME to WE (3 part series)

The Agile Revolution and the Secret of Successful Projects 

By Claude Emond

“I believe that every human being is a miracle of life and has unlimited value.”

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Changing ME projects into WE projects is what makes them valuable and successful. The stakeholders of a project are all part of its team, willingly or not.

This is not a choice; it is a need.

Stakeholders have different roles, but not different “ranks”. There is no project hierarchy. All stakeholders are co-travellers on a collective journey to better their life and be happier.

Part 1: An Essential ME

We Must Rethink the Role of Executive Sponsor

Too often, I find that, when teams are formed, the project sponsor is not part of the project team; but someone designated to hover above and not mix with the common folk.

Someone published fairly recently, in Project Times, a blog post about the relationship of the sponsor with other team members: Project Sponsor as Core Team Member.

This post received many supporting comments. Unfortunately it was still reinforcing the idea that the role of the “executive sponsor” is linked to a hierarchical position in the organization, instead of being a strictly temporary role, which requires servant-leader types of behaviors rather than using directive control and command authority associated with rank. *

The problem with this point of view is that it perpetuates:

  • A vision of teamwork that has nothing to do with the true nature of the relationships that exist between the many stakeholders who journey together in a project, nowadays.
  • The  traditional belief in a “project hierarchical order,” similar to the organizational top-down silo structures of Taylor’s assembly lines, with their upstairs-downstairs type of roles cast forever in concrete.

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Being an executive sponsor is not a hierarchical title; it is only a convenient and necessary temporary role, associated more with specific support responsibilities than with hierarchical authority. To be successful, projects cannot be managed by the titles on business cards, but rather with people who:

  • Fully accept their respective roles in a given project.
  • Have duties and responsibilities instead of rank and authority.

That said, a business project (either private or public) cannot succeed without the sponsorship of someone in upper management, an “executive sponsor” who:

  • Is directly accountable for the anticipated benefits.
  • Understands and has a strong vision of the project organizational finality to share.
  • Will consider this project as his/her personal priority.
  • Will make sure the project has all the resources and the organizational support necessary to its success.

I will write more later on the paramount role of an executive sponsor in our collective journeys (projects).

Have you worked with executive sponsors who hover or interact? How did that affect the team’s success?

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* Taken at face value, the meaning of “sponsor” in this Project Times article is approximately the same as the one I will be using throughout my writing for the term “executive sponsor” as defined in Wikipedia:

a senior executive in a corporation (often at or just below board level) who is responsible to the business for the success of the project.

The Wikipedia entry gives also a very good description of the many roles of the “executive sponsor”, as well as of the responsibilities coming with them and the diverse activities that are expected from this person, in any project. So, I am fine with all that is written in this Wikipedia entry.

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