It’s not uncommon for Project Managers to be in charge of a project that spans across organizational departments or boundaries. In this situation you may find yourself managing people over whom you have little or no authority. How do you handle or solve this common project management problem?
It is always difficult inspiring project labor resources to be enthusiastic accountable team members. This situation can be exacerbated when team members come from distant departments, organizational units where you have no compelling authority. The politics between organizational departments can hinder camaraderie among project team members. And your limited authority can also affect your labor resources genuine effort on your project.
This can place you, the project manager, in a tenuous situation. You are not without hope though. There are steps you, as the project manager, can implement to rally the troops to your cause.
This article describes the steps, in different areas, that project managers with limited authority can take to motivate team members to loyally support their project.
Managing a project across departmental and organizational boundaries can be a great challenge to your projects success. I have firsthand project management experience that required me to manage team members from across fiercely competitive and even bitter rival divisions. This was during the post-cold war defense base downsize and closing procedures of the nineteen nineties.
My division in Annapolis lost out in this process and was downsized and relocated to Philadelphia, while our sister division in Bethesda was expanded and remained in place. My division in Annapolis felt betrayed by our sister division in Bethesda. You can imagine the delicate situation I was in having to manage a team across these rival and bitter divisions.
What follows are different project related areas where you can look to implement the respective advise on how to inspire team member loyalty to your project.
A project manager’s authority begins with the project charter. The project charter announces the commencement of a new project. It also demonstrates management support for both the project and the project manager. The project charter is first among project documents, and should be the first place the project manager looks to ensure their authority is respected. So make sure the project charter strongly and clearly specifies your authority on the project.
Statement of Work
The Statement Of Work (SOW) explains the purpose of the project. It documents the accepted expectations and lists the goals, constraints, and success benchmark. It provides the background to understand the importance of the project to the department and the entire organization. Further, it specifies responsibilities. Make certain stakeholders, including team members, clearly understand and are in agreement with the statement of work.
Involve team members, in particular distant team members, in establishing your lines of communication. Team members outside your organization may require a formal process for two-way communication. Your goal in communication is to make certain all team members are updated and involved.
The work package is the deliverable at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure, and also includes the associated schedule milestones and activities. Focus your efforts on making work package assignments understandable and easy to track. Involve team members, especially distant team members, in estimating the cost and duration of activities and work package completion criteria. The theory goes, if your team has a hand in preparing estimates they will have and demonstrate more ownership over their assignments. That sense of ownership is key to motivating team members to your cause.
The project is a puzzle, sometimes with many pieces. Use the network diagram or Gantt chart to show team members exactly where they fit in the project. Emphasize the importance of their effort, and explain the impact if they do not meet project target objectives. If their tasks have significant total float, let them set their own schedule. Again, this is the principle of involvement and ownership. Hold them to the start and completion dates they formulate and agree to.
Status meetings are a key element in holding your team together. Distant team members should be regularly updated and invited to status meetings, particularly, when their assigned tasks on the Gantt chart are fast approaching. Again, hold all your team members accountable to the schedule.
Your project sponsor is your authority lifeline. Focus your efforts on maintaining a strong relationship with your sponsor. Keep them informed and updated on progress. You may require your sponsor’s assistance in overcoming politics, and other resistance and friction between organizations and departments.
Leading teams across competing company divisions puts the project manager in a fragile situation. These situations challenge your authority and call for strong leadership.
- Start with making sure the project charter clearly defines your authority.
- Make sure all team members are in agreement with the statement of work.
- Communication is key to keep every team member involved.
- Keep work packages small, clear, and understandable.
- Encourage team member participation in estimates, and, therefore, ownership.
- Use the Network Diagram and/or Gantt chart to show distant team members how they fit in the big picture.
- Status meetings are like glue that holds your team together.
- Last, and most important, maintain good relations with your sponsor. They are your last line of defense when all else fails.
For more on project management and solving common project problems refer to “The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management” by Eric Verzuh.