With 2 plus decades experience in the project management and organizational development world, I am incessantly amazed on how a project is so closely linked the Project Sponsor, instead of the organization and the business goals it is set to achieve or influence.
When the “why”, purpose of a project has been well documented and approved by the necessary resource, a Project or Program Manager is assigned to lead and support the planning, implementation and sometimes kick off the sustainment of the product from the project. The project manager (PM) with help from other resources is tasked with creating engagement protocols and tactics to ensure every stakeholder buys into the vision of the project.
A few years ago, while studying for a master’s in project management, one of my professors asked a question, at what point are you successful as a project manager? The class gave a quintessential response, “when the triple constraints, time, cost and scope are managed effectively”, we all echoed in our responses. To which she responded, you are all wrong, you are successful when you close a project and months later, the output of the project is being used/accessed.
I share this story to provide some context around the role of the PM and how that does not impact the project when a PM is replaced. Why you ask? The PM has a set of guidelines to run the project and regardless of who is the sponsor, the pm ensures the project is implemented in line with the framework. However, when there is a change of sponsor, there is a shift that could lead to a complete halt of the project, or the cancellation of the project. This decision could be based on the personal preference, and at other times imply because the sponsor sees or believes the project does not align to his/her value or focus. The PM does not have the same power or influence.
If you are a PM and are wandering how to deal with a change in sponsor, and the new sponsor is about to shut down your project. Take heart, recognize that the decision is not your fault. It is beyond your influence. Take time to process the emotions you are experiencing, thereafter start working to close the project with exceptional expertise, from documentation to engagement tactics. I have seen a project that was completely shut down resuscitated years later. What helped to make the kickoff run smoothly is what the prior pm did to close the project.
Projects rest in place when they are closed properly by the PM.