Project sponsors, typically C-level business executives accountable for project spending and outcomes, can be excused for being sceptical about Agile project delivery approaches because there is a perception that they don’t support governance. Agile should not be ignored though, because it is proving to be a more effective way to deliver change faster and in a more flexible manner. In contrast, traditional methods used for delivering software solutions have not been very successful, industry studies (e.g. Standish Group research) have been reporting failure rates above 60% consistently for many years.
In thinking about the hundreds of client projects I’ve completed over the last ten years, if I had to pick one key to success, it would be project leadership. For example, I worked with one client on multiple projects simultaneously with several project leaders over the course of many months. The same senior leadership sponsored every project. A few were downright frustrating as we struggled to move an inch a week whereas others leaped forward a mile in the same timeframe. Of course my focus was to accelerate progress on the ones that inched forward; however, significant acceleration could go from an inch to 5 feet; still slow as molasses as compared with moving a mile.
We know that the active and sustained participation of a project’s decision-makers is the primary contributor to project success. Even Project Management Institute (PMI) research reveals “that having actively engaged executive sponsors is the top driver of project success.” So what does it mean to have actively engaged executives and how does one ensure that their project’s decision-makers are, in fact, actively engaged? Measure their level of satisfaction, of course!