The “Project Manager’s conundrum”

I recently had a great chat with a jr. Project Manager (let’s call her Sam) who explained to me her struggles with some of the stakeholders in her project. It perfectly confirmed one of the topics I touch on in my Project Management Workshop.

Most Project Managers work in a matrix-type environment:

–       They directly work with Team Members assigned to the project from different departments or organizations (horizontal line of communication in below chart).

–       But those Team Members fall under the formal authority of their hierarchal managers (vertical).

As long as team members are doing the work as needed, the project is humming along nicely.

However, when they don’t, for example, a Team Member’s hierarchal boss assigns higher priority to another project, then the Project Manager may want to make a phone call (“Houston, we have a problem”).
 Lacking formal authority over her Team Member and their boss, she can ONLY use her communication skills and experience to convince them to change things around in favour of her project. This is what I call “the Project Manager’s Conundrum”.

If all fails, the Project Member has no choice but to go up the food chain. In Small or Medium Enterprises, this is often the president / business owner. In public projects, this may be the client / project owner.

The Project Manager is then to clarify the choices to the owner:

–       Re-direct priority to her project

–       Confirm priority for the other project and allow hers to slip

–       Assign more resources to enable both projects to succeed.

If the owner does not do this, then the Project Manager has essentially been sent on a Mission Impossible: she can hope for Tom Cruise’s survival skills, or, more practical, decide that her skills are of better use somewhere else.

Business Owners interested in a 2-3 hour introductory Project Management workshop for their staff, please connect with me!

I also do Team brainstorms to identify weaknesses in your Project Management practices, and then decide on ways to make improvements.

Blog 10 - Stakeholder Management and The PM's Conundrum
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