Project Authority

Project management structures create a web of relationships that can cause chaos in the delegation of authority and the internal authority structure. Four questions must be considered in describing project authority:

• What is project authority?

• How much project authority should be granted to the project manager?

• Who settles project authority interface problems?

One form of the project manager's authority can be defined as the legal or rightful power to command, act, or direct the activities of others. The breakdown of the project manager's authority is shown in Figure 5-1. Authority can be delegated from one's superiors. Power, on the other hand, is granted to an individual by his subordinates and is a measure of their respect for him. A manager's authority is a combination of his power and influence such that subordinates, peers, and associates willingly accept his judgment.

In the traditional structure, the power spectrum is realized through the hierarchy, whereas in the project structure, power comes from credibility, expertise, or being a sound decision-maker.

Authority is the key to the project management process. The project manager must manage across functional and organizational lines by bringing together activities required to accomplish the objectives of a specific project. Project authority provides the way of thinking required to unify all organizational activities toward accomplishment of the project regardless of where they are located. The project manager who fails to build and maintain his alliances will soon find opposition or indifference to his project requirements.

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FIGURE 5-1. Project authority breakdown. Source: Bill Eglinton, "Matrix Project Management Myths and Realities," Project Management Institutes Inc., Proceedings of the 13th Annual Seminars and Symposium, Toronto, Canada (1982). All rights reserved. Materials from this publication have been reproduced with the permission of PMI. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited.

The amount of authority granted to the project manager varies according to project size, management philosophy, and management interpretation of potential conflicts with functional managers. There do exist, however, certain fundamental elements over which the project manager must have authority in order to maintain effective control. According to Steiner and Ryan4:

The project manager should have broad authority over all elements of the project. His authority should be sufficient to permit him to engage all necessary managerial and technical actions required to complete the project successfully. He should have appropriate authority in design and in making technical decisions in development. He should be able to control funds, schedule and quality of product. If subcontractors are used, he should have maximum authority in their selection.

Generally speaking, a project manager should have more authority than his responsibility calls for, the exact amount of authority usually depending on the amount of risk that the project manager must take. The greater the risk, the greater the amount of authority. A good project manager knows where his authority ends and does not hold an employee responsible for duties that he (the project manager) does not have the authority to enforce. Some projects are directed by project managers who have only monitoring authority. These project managers are referred to as influence project managers. Failure to establish authority relationships can result in:

4. Reprinted from George A. Steiner and William G. Ryan, Industrial Project Management (1968), p. 24. Copyright © 1968 by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Reprinted with permission of The Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster.

• Poor communication channels

• Misleading information

• Antagonism, especially from the informal organization

• Poor working relationships with superiors, subordinates, peers, and associates

• Surprises for the customer

The following are the most common sources of power and authority problems in a project environment:

• Poorly documented or no formal authority

• Power and authority perceived incorrectly

• Dual accountability of personnel

• Two bosses (who often disagree)

• The project organization encouraging individualism

• Subordinate relations stronger than peer or superior relationships

• Shifting of personnel loyalties from vertical to horizontal lines

• Group decision-making based on the strongest group

• Ability to influence or administer rewards and punishment

• Sharing resources among several projects

The project manager does not have unilateral authority in the project effort. He frequently negotiates with the functional manager. The project manager has the authority to determine the "when" and "what" of the project activities, whereas the functional manager has the authority to determine "how the support will be given." The project manager accomplishes his objectives by working with personnel who are largely professional. For professional personnel, project leadership must include explaining the rationale of the effort as well as the more obvious functions of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling.

Certain ground rules exist for authority control through negotiations:

• Negotiations should take place at the lowest level of interaction.

• Definition of the problem must be the first priority:

• The alternative

• The recommendations

• Higher-level authority should be used if, and only if, agreement cannot be reached.

The critical stage of any project is planning. This includes more than just planning the activities to be accomplished; it also includes the planning and establishment of the authority relationships that must exist for the duration of the project. Because the project management environment is an ever-changing one, each project establishes its own policies and procedures, a situation that can ultimately result in a variety of authority relationships. It is therefore possible for functional personnel to have different responsibilities on different projects, even if the tasks are the same.

During the planning phase the project team develops a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) that contains such elements as:

• General management responsibility

• Operations management responsibility

• Specialized responsibility

• Who must be consulted

• Who may be consulted

• Who must be notified

• Who must approve

The responsibility matrix is often referred to as a linear responsibility chart (LRC) or responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). Linear responsibility charts identify the participants, and to what degree an activity will be performed or a decision will be made. The LRC attempts to clarify the authority relationships that can exist when functional units share common work. As described by Cleland and King5:

The need for a device to clarify the authority relationships is evident from the relative unity of the traditional pyramidal chart, which (1) is merely a simple portrayal of the overall functional and authority models and (2) must be combined with detailed position descriptions and organizational manuals to delineate authority relationships and work performance duties.

Figure 5-2 shows a typical linear responsibility chart. The rows, which indicate the activities, responsibilities, or functions required, can be all of the tasks in the work breakdown structure. The columns identify either positions, titles, or the people themselves. If the chart will be given to an outside customer, then only the titles should appear, or the customer will call the employees directly without going through the project manager. The symbols indicate the degrees of authority or responsibility existing between the rows and columns.

Another example of an LRC is shown in Figure 5-3. In this case, the LRC is used to describe how internal and external communications should take place. This type of chart can be used to eliminate communications conflicts. Consider a customer who is unhappy about having all of his information filtered through the project manager and requests that his line people be permitted to talk to your line people on a one-on-one basis. You may have no choice but to permit this, but you should make sure that the customer understands that:

• Functional employees cannot make commitments for additional work or resources.

• Functional employees give their own opinion and not that of the company.

• Company policy comes through the project office.

5. From David I. Cleland and William Richard King, Systems Analysis and Project Management (New York: McGraw-Hill), p. 271. Copyright © 1968, 1975 McGraw-Hill Inc. Used with permission of McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

Always wanted to get a better deal but didn't have the needed negotiation skills? Here are some of the best negotiation theories. The ability to negotiate is a skill which everyone should have. With the ability to negotiate you can take charge of your life, your finances and your destiny. If you feel that others are simply born with the skill to negotiate, you should know that everyone can learn this wonderful skill.

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