Most complex plan design projects have "project sponsors." Engineering and IT projects have a long history with project sponsors, but in many larger companies HR does, too. A good definition of a project sponsor is:
. . . a manager with demonstrable interest in the outcome of the project who is responsible for securing spending authority and resources for the project. The Project Sponsor acts as a vocal and visible champion, legitimizes the project goals (and more) . . .
In my experience, a strong project sponsor can really matter, especially to months-long projects. Particularly if the outcome of your project is going to make some of the people (fill in: Department Heads, Division Heads, Plant Managers, Engineers, and so on) uncomfortable for a period of time. Either because your plan design really is an innovation or because you uncover a sore spot that the group has ever so carefully been covering up.
The other part of my experience with project sponsors is that they are always going missing. Especially when you need them. Granted they are usually line managers who can't always put compensation on the top of their priorities. But now that I write that, I think, "Really???"
Anyway, here's the great advice. If the sponsor asks, either to begin with or mid-project, "Can I delegate?" have a candid heart-to-heart talk, or get yourself another sponsor, quick. Here's the problem definition. I've run into it so many times:
. . . If a vice president delegates sponsorship to a director, for example, the director may not be able to make the decisions that the vice president could. This creates an artificial bottleneck when the director has to go to the vice president, explain the issue, why the decision needs to be made, etc. Not a good place for the project to be in. Especially one that is fast moving with critical timeframes.
I don't know how much more clearly the picture can be painted. You know, the one where your project team is waiting to get on someone's calendar in order to make a presentation to find out if there is support, let alone approval. In other words, bringing your team to a screeching and painful halt -- and putting your whole project in peril. It all must sound familiar.
Now I know, because I've read about it, that I need to trust my instincts, speak up early, just when my project sponsor begins to drift away. The advice above is passed on by a veteran project manager called Russell Harley, who has been writing about project management on the Web recently. If your 2015 holds a sales compensation redesign, or plans for variable pay, or a new stock plan design, or, or, you could learn a lot from Mr. Harley. I know I have.
Margaret O'Hanlon, CCP is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She brings deep expertise in communications, compensation and career development to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, Margaret was a Principal with Towers Watson. She's wondering if you've read what's on page 31 of Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication? Find out at www.everythingiscommunication.com. Think about it as you get ready for your 2014 self assessment. Margaret collaborated with Ann Bares and Dan Walter to bring this ebook into the world. Filled with innovative ideas, practical tips and experienced advice, it's a quick read and a valuable resource for building your influence as a compensation strategist. Come visit and tell us what you think!