There’s a great article at the BA Times, describing several sponsor types and how to deal with them. All 3 types are depressingly familar.
Sponsor Type 1.
I hope you don’t mind me intimidating everyone with my overbearing nature at your team meetings…I’m just trying to help you speed things along J.
I don’t think that the points in this particular example aren’t particularly helpful. With people like these you can easily end up being rail-roaded into whatever solution they had in mind, and giving them too much airtime to talk about this will only make this more likely.
If I thought that the rest of the attendees were too intimidated or kept quiet for whatever reason, then I’d approach them individually to see if they agree with what the sponsor has ‘pre-decided’. If there’s a significant number of people who disagree, then there can be a discussion had with the sponsor about their assumptions.
Sponsor Type 2.
I’m not exactly clear on what I’m looking for, but I’ll be sure to hold you responsible when I don’t get it…
Each of the points made here are good:
- Clarify the effort early and often. Identify in scope items and out of scope items (out of scope is critical), tangible deliverables, timing expectations, budget restrictions, roles and responsibilities, known risks, and key stakeholders.
- Identify their soap box issue early and emphasize WIIFT (What’s in it for them). If they don’t understand exactly what they want, ask them to explain their motivation/driving factor. Often, execs have a soap box issue, predetermined bias, or hypothesis they want validated. Try to find out what this is as soon as possible.
- Ask the sponsor to prioritize cost, time, and scope (good, fast, and cheap). Which is most important (relative to the others)? Hint: The answer is not all three. Think McDonald’s – their focus is very intentionally fast and cheap. Be clear which constraints are really driving the project.
- Explicitly ask how they will define success. Always ask the sponsor to finish this sentence…I will consider this project a success if…
Sponsor Type 3.
Would you please boil the ocean? (and solve world peace too while you’re at it J)
The first point is the best:
Try to identify the specific mandatory requirements (and separate the “wants” from the “needs”). Sometimes they will ask for a Porsche when a skateboard will do. Also, there may simply be a knowledge gap and they don’t realize that there is a quicker, easier way to get them what they really want.
Generally speaking, I find that if you ignore the problem, it will only get worse. Retreating back to your desk to write the requirements, with no communication with the sponsor or other stakeholders will leave you horribly exposed.
Keep in touch with them, make sure they feel like they’re being listened to, and getting sign-off will be a whole lot easier!