How good are you at briefing a pm?

by Ron Rosenhead

"This is long; much longer than a briefing note I would normally get from my manager or sponsor.”

These are words spoken by someone on a project management course and words I have heard before.

What was being referred to was a case study, 315 words long which took up less than a page of paper. The person went on to say, and it is something I have heard before, they are lucky to get a one line e-mail, or a face to face briefing that lasts less than 30 seconds.

This brings me to a briefing activity we sometimes do with project sponsors. The activity involves 3 people with one person being briefed by another, and with the 3rd person acting as observer. I start the feedback by asking the person who was briefed to say what the project is all about. Their understanding is usually very low.

Poor briefing leads to misunderstandings and wasted effort to name a few. So what are some of the rules for better briefing by sponsors?

  • have a clear objective and say what you think it is in your briefing

  • plan for the briefing – allow your self time to think how information will be presented. What documentation do you need? Who do you need the project manager to speak to?

  • analyse the person being briefed and building this into your plan. For example, the person may like a lot of time to ask those important questions or they relate more to written documentation which allows you to prepare accordingly

  • test understanding by asking questions ensuring the person understands

  • think about the time and the place for the briefing to take place (you would be surprised by some of the places people tell me they have received a [verbal] brief)

  • get feedback yourself! You will only improve if you know how you have done and what better way to check than when you have just briefed someone

So, what’s the question?

As a sponsor are you and your colleagues trained sufficiently well to brief people effectively?


Project Agency




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