'Piggy in the Middle'

Who hasn't felt like the piggy in the middle at some stage of a project? Caught between what the Team wants and what the Sponsor wants!

In situations like this, no Gantt Chart, no spread sheet, no technical process can help you out. Somewhere along the way there has been crossed wires, hazy communications and misunderstanding and there you are - the Sponsor pulling in one direction and the team in another.

The Project Team does not feel the Sponsor is supportive of the project and are in danger of losing motivation:

  • Engage the Sponsor in thinking through the impact of decisions and changes on team effectiveness and performance, e.g. before your Sponsor meetings close, confirm what messages will be conveyed to the team, possible impact on them and how to manage this.
  • Inform the Sponsor about great effort, ideas and performance from team members and suggest that the Sponsor personally recognises these.
  • Invite the Sponsor to listen to team progress updates.
  • Give the Sponsor all the team members contact details - thus making them accessible.

The Team and Sponsor want to take the project in different directions:

  • Ensure the team understand the big picture - what may appear a logical and great idea for the project may be less attractive when considering wider impact and implications.
  • Where the Sponsor wants to significantly depart from the Team's proposals, invite him/her to the team meeting to provide the context and explanation.
  • Be explicit about decisions and agreements which have already been made and cannot be overturned.
  • Ensure the team are really clear on what is in and out of scope of the project.

The Sponsor does not believe in the need to invest time and effort in getting the team effective:

  • Encourage the Sponsor to relate to their previous project successes, failures and teams they are part of - and surface the impact of unresolved team issues and a team that is a 'team' in name only.
  • Present the research which shows that more than 70% of project failures are due to people issues.
  • Clarify that the project needs the combined know how, ideas and effort of the people engaged and to accomplish this requires that team know how to and want to work together.
  • Provide a mechanism, with costs, for how you would like to secure an effective team and keep them that way.
  • Create images in the Sponsor's mind of what it would be like to have a fully functioning team in place when crisis emerges and a rapid change in direction is needed.

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