There are numerous complaints from Project Manager’s about their lack of authority when managing a project. They blame this lack of authority for the inability to manage stakeholders and project resources. If this is the case, then what is the role of the project manager and how do we overcome this lack of authority?
In building construction, the PM is the planner and coordinator but the actual work is managed by the different groups (e.g. plumbers, electricians, etc.). The PM does not directly manage these groups and has limited control over them other than oversight, verification of progress, and Issue Identification/Management/Escalation.
This same analogy applies to IT projects. Ultimately, the PM creates a plan that coordinates the activities of various groups but the PM typically does not directly supervise any of the individuals assigned to the project. In order for a project to be successful, each group/individual must be accountable for completing their tasks on-time and with a high level of quality. The PM should oversee, verify, and escalate issues.
The reason PM’s are frustrated is because they create the plan in response to dates that are imposed on them and then they impose dates on the participants. None of the participants (including the PM) feels they are accountable to deliver on those dates.
In order for a project to be successful, the scope must be documented and agreed to, the plan must be achievable, and each participating group must accept accountabililty for their scope and dates. If they do not accept the plan, there needs to be some up-front negotiation or re-prioritization with corresponding changes to the plan that is acceptable to the participants.