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THE INVISIBLE SPONSOR1

Background

Some executives prefer to micromanage projects whereas other executives

are fearful of making a decision because, if they were to make the wrong

decision, it could impact their career. In this case study, the president of

the company assigned one of the vice presidents to act as the project

sponsor on a project designed to build tooling for a client. The sponsor,

however, was reluctant to make any decisions.

Assigning the VP

Moreland Company was well-respected as a tooling design-and-build

company. Moreland was project-driven because all of its income came

from projects. Moreland was also reasonably mature in project

management.

When the previous VP for engineering retired, Moreland hired an

executive from a manufacturing company to replace him. The new VP for

engineering, Al Zink, had excellent engineering knowledge about tooling

but had worked for companies that were not project-driven. Al had very

little knowledge about project management and had never functioned as a

project sponsor. Because of Al’s lack of experience as a sponsor, the

president decided that Al should “get his feet wet” as quickly as possible

and assigned him as the project sponsor on a medium-sized project. The

project manager on this project was Fred Cutler. Fred was an engineer

with more than twenty years of experience in tooling design and

manufacturing. Fred reported directly to Al Zink administratively.

Fred’s Dilemma

Fred understood the situation; he would have to train Al Zink on how to

function as a project sponsor. This was a new experience for Fred because

subordinates usually do not train senior personnel on how to do their job.

Would Al Zink be receptive?

Fred explained the role of the sponsor and how there are certain project

documents that require the signatures of both the project manager and the

project sponsor. Everything seemed to be going well until Fred informed

Al that the project sponsor is the person that the president eventually holds

accountable for the success or failure of the project. Fred could tell that Al

was quite upset over this statement.

Al realized that the failure of a project where he was the sponsor could

damage his reputation and career. Al was now uncomfortable about

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having to act as a sponsor but knew that he might eventually be assigned

as a sponsor on other projects. Al also knew that this project was

somewhat of a high risk. If Al could function as an invisible sponsor, he

could avoid making any critical decisions.

In the first meeting between Fred and Al where Al was the sponsor, Al

asked Fred for a copy of the schedule for the project. Fred responded:

I’m working on the schedule right now. I cannot finish the schedule

until you tell me whether you want me to lay out the schedule based

upon best time, least cost, or least risk.

Al stated that he would think about it and get back to Fred as soon as

possible.

During the middle of the next week, Fred and Al met in the company’s

cafeteria. Al asked Fred again, “How is the schedule coming along?” and

Fred responded as before:

I cannot finish the schedule until you tell me whether you want me to

lay out the schedule based upon best time, least cost, or least risk.

Al was furious, turned around, and walked away from Fred. Fred was now

getting nervous about how upset Al was and began worrying if Al might

remove him as the project manager. But Fred decided to hold his ground

and get Al to make a decision.

At the weekly sponsor meeting between Fred and Al, once again Al asked

the same question, and once again Fred gave the same response as before.

Al now became quite angry and yelled out:

Just give me a least time schedule.

Fred had gotten Al to make his first decision. Fred finalized his schedule

and had it on Al’s desk two days later awaiting Al’s signature. Once

again, Al procrastinated and refused to sign off on the schedule. Al

believed that, if he delayed making the decision, Fred would take the

initiative and begin working on the schedule without Al’s signature.

Fred kept sending e-mails to Al asking when he intended to sign off on the

schedule or, if something was not correct, what changes needed to be

made. As expected, Al did not respond. Fred then decided that he had to

pressure Al one way or another into making timely decisions as the

project sponsor. Fred then sent an e-mail to Al that stated:

I sent you the project schedule last week. If the schedule is not signed

by this Friday, there could be an impact on the end date of the project.

If I do not hear from you, one way or another, by this Friday, I will

assume you approve the schedule and I can begin implementation.

The president’s e-mail address was also included in the CC location on the

e-mail. The next morning, Fred found the schedule on his desk, signed by

Al Zink.


Question:  

1. Were Al Zink’s actions that of someone trying to be an invisible

sponsor?

2. Did Fred Cutler act appropriately in trying to get Al Zink to act as a

sponsor?

3. What is your best guess as to what happened to the working

relationship between Al Zink and Fred Cutler?

    • Posted: 5 months ago
    • Due: 
    • Budget: $5
    Answers 1

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