Project Management - 100% Responsibility and 0% Authority

November 21, 2012

Project Managers face a unique set of challenges every day. One of those that comes to mind often is how we, as Project Managers, succeed when we have 100% of the responsibility for the project outcome but 0% authority over the people getting the job done? That is a particular dilemma that we face as consultant Project Managers who run projects with internal company resources and, especially, external resources. All of the people doing the work report to some other company or manager for administrative purposes.

Actually, this is not a hard dilemma to overcome. Like most of the work we do, it depends on the principles of organization, communication, respect, and accountability.

Organization: Plan everything, project schedule, cost structure, what is expected, what could go wrong, what are the idiosyncrasies’ of every one of our team members. Find out a lot more about the project activities than you think you need to know.

Communication: Talk to everyone all the time. Make sure we have written weekly status reports to all people on the team and more to management. For every weekly status update meeting assure that an agenda is published, in advance, so all attendees, and other personnel, know what is to be talked about. Then keep the meetings on task by being the leader and stick to the agenda. We are the Project Managers and we need to maintain control at all times. The key to all Project Management is communication. All members of the project team need to know what we are doing, who is responsible for what, when we are to get things done, what are the current obstacles, what are the potential obstacles, what are the current successes, and what are our expectations as Project Manager. They also need to know what the expectations are that we have for each team member and what are senior management’s expectations. All of this information needs to be communicated to the affected parties frequently, and in a timely manner.

Respect: We, as Project Managers, must assure that the ideas, issues, concerns, strengths, and work ethic of all the people who work on the projects with us are dealt with in a manner that maximizes the overall effectiveness of the project completion.

Accountability: “Say what you are going to do and do what you say.” This may be an old adage but it has never been truer than it is for today’s Project Manager. When people understand that you mean business and are committed to doing exactly what you say you are going to do, they are more likely to become committed to following your lead. The end result of this is that the paradox of 100% responsibility and 0% authority is really nothing more than hyperbole. Project Managers are always 100% responsible. We gain the 100% authority by our actions and our leadership. The most important attribute of a Project Manager is leadership.

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