Defining the Functional Managers Role

Assuming that the project and functional managers are not the same person, we can identify a specific role for the functional manager. There are two elements to this role:

• The functional manager has the responsibility to define how the task will be done and where the task will be done (i.e., the technical criteria).

• The functional manager has the responsibility to provide sufficient resources to accomplish the objective within the project's constraints (i.e., who will get the job done).

• The functional manager has the responsibility for the deliverable.

In other words, once the project manager identifies the requirements for the project (i.e., what work has to be done and the constraints), it becomes the line manager's responsibility to identify the technical criteria. Except perhaps in R&D efforts, the line manager should be the recognized technical expert. If the line manager believes that certain technical portions of the project manager's requirements are unsound, then the line manager has the right, by virtue of his expertise, to take exception and plead his case to a higher authority.

In Section 1.1 we stated that all resources (including personnel) are controlled by the line manager. The project manager has the right to request specific staff, but the final appointments rest with line managers. Project managers view line managers as rather shady characters (see Figure 1-4) who never keep their promises. In a project environment, line managers are under tremendous pressure to live up to their commitments. Unfortunately, project managers do not realize the line manager's problems. The line manager has to cope with:

• Unlimited work requests (especially during competitive bidding)

• Predetermined deadlines

• All requests having a high priority

• Limited number of resources

• Limited availability of resources

Figure 1-4. Do functional managers live up to commitments?

• Unscheduled changes in the project plan

• Unpredicted lack of progress

• Unplanned absence of resources

• Unplanned breakdown of resources

• Unplanned loss of resources

• Unplanned turnover of personnel

Only in a very few industries will the line manager be able to identify to the project manager in advance exactly what resources will be available when the project is scheduled to begin. Actually, it is not important for the project manager to have the best available resources. Functional managers should not commit to certain people's availability. Rather, the functional manager should commit to achieving his portion of the objective within time, cost, and performance even if he has to use average or below-average personnel. If the project manager is unhappy with the assigned functional resources, then the project manager should closely track that portion of the project. Only if and when the project manager is convinced by the evidence that the assigned resources are unacceptable should he then confront the line manager and demand better resources.

Just the fact that a project manager is assigned does not relieve the line manager of his functional responsibility to perform. If a functional manager assigns resources such that the constraints are not met, then both the project and functional managers will be blamed. One company is even considering evaluating line managers for merit increases and promotion based on how often they have lived up to their commitments to the project managers. Therefore, it is extremely valuable to everyone concerned to have all project commitments made visible to all.

Some companies carry the concept of commitments to extremes. An aircraft components manufacturer has a Commitment Department headed up by a second-level manager. The function of the Commitment Department is to track how well the line managers keep their promises to the project managers. The department manager reports directly to the vice president of the division. In this company, line managers are extremely careful and cautious in making commitments, but do everything possible to meet deliverables. This same company has gone so far as to tell both project and line personnel that they run the risk of being discharged from the company for burying a problem until such time that options for solving it become limited rather than bringing the problem to the surface immediately where help can be found.

Project management is not designed to be a unity of command methodology. It is designed to have shared authority and responsibility between the project and line managers. Project managers plan, monitor, and control the project, whereas functional managers perform the work. Table 1-1 shows this shared responsibility. The one exception to Table 1-1 occurs when the project and line managers are the same person. This situation, which happens more often than not, creates a conflict of interest. If a line manager has to assign resources to six projects, one of which is under his direct control, he might save the best resources for his project. In this case, his project will be a success at the expense of all of the other projects.

The exact relationship between project and line managers is of paramount importance in project management where multiple-boss reporting prevails. Table 1-2 shows that the relationship between project and line managers is not always in balance and thus, of course, has a bearing on who exerts more influence over the assigned functional employees.





Project Manager

Give recommendation: Informal Milestone (summary)

Line Manager

Provide rewards: Formal




Summary Summary Summary







Project Manager (PM)/Line Manager (LM)/Employee Relationship

Type of Project Manager

Lightweight no Heavyweight

Type of





Tiger teams Very strong

PM Negotiates For


People who report informally to PM but formally to LMs

People who report entirely to PM full-time for duration of project






PM and LMs

PM only

PM Receives Functional Progress From

Primarily LMs

Assigned employees who report to LMs

Assigned employees who now report directly to PM

Employee Performance Evaluations Made By

LMs only with in from PM

LMs with input fr PM

PM only

*The types of organizational structures are discussed in Chapter 3.

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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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