The Power of the Project Manager

Power is often defined as the ability to influence key players in the decision-making process to achieve a goal. In other words, power means getting what one wants.

Project managers often feel powerless because they lack the powers of functional managers, such as hiring and firing. While true, they are not as powerless as they think. According to management theorists John French and Bertram Raven, five different sources of power exist. Each applies to varying extents to the project manager.

• Coercive power uses fear as a primary tool. It involves inflicting punishment. Project managers usually have little coercive power in an overt sense. On a more subtle level, however, they may not assign certain people to coveted tasks, not invite them to meetings, or not communicate with them.

• Reward power uses positive financial and nonmonetary tools. Most project managers lack the power to use monetary incentives. However, they can provide feedback to functional managers on performance, which in turn provides a basis for determining salary increases. Project managers can also pay for training and dispense other perks. From a nonmonetary perspective, they can reward people by assigning them to high-visibility tasks, as well as involve them in the decision-making process.

• Legitimate power is the authority granted by the institution. In other words, such power allows managers to "order" people with the full backing of the institution. Project managers, especially in a matrix environment, lack this power—they must use other power sources. Still, they have some legitimate power, especially if they have the political support of a powerful senior manager.

• Expert power is based on a person's knowledge credentials, expertise, or education. Project managers are often chosen for these characteristics and they gain considerable power in this regard. The only problem is that project managers often become narrowly focused, failing to see the big picture and working on other key areas. In addition, they have power only as long as people respect those characteristics.

• Referent power is based on trait theory—that is, a person's characteristics. These project managers have certain characteristics that make people want to follow them. An example of such a trait is charisma.

In the end, she wants someone who can lead groups of people as well as individuals, provide a vision of what the project is to achieve, be able to communicate effectively, ensure that people stay focused on the vision, motivate people to participate, and facilitate and expedite performance. After conversations with executives on the steering committee and after reviewing the performance records of prospective candidates, Amelia selects Perry Fitzberg as the project manager.

At this point, you have seen the initial steps taken by senior management in assessing the worth of the project, evaluating its prospects for success, and establishing the responsibility for project management. Review the following questions, then move on to Chapter 3, where the qualities of project leadership are considered from a broad perspective.

Questions for Getting Started

1. What type of organizational structure does your project have? Is it task force? Matrix?

2. What soft skills will you need to lead your project? Do you know what areas to improve upon?

3. What hard skills will you need to lead your project? Do you know what areas to improve upon?

4. What aspects of your personality will prove useful in leading your project? Do you know what aspects to improve upon?

5. How will you provide a vision of what the project is to achieve?

6. Do you communicate effectively?

7. How will you ensure that people stay focused on the vision?

8. Do you have ideas for motivating people to participate?

9. Can you facilitate and expedite their performance?

10. What ideas do you have for leading groups of people?


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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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