Getting Results Without Authority

Many times there will be projects you are responsible for managing that involve co-workers that you have no real direct authority over.  They do not report to you but to a different functional manager within the organization.  However, you are responsible and accountable for the work they are doing on this particular project.

As a project manager, it is up to you to provide the groundwork, set the tone and establish the framework and timelines on which the project is based.  This involves providing boundaries, setting priorities, and cultivating a creative and productive atmosphere.  It is important for everyone to understand their role, how it impacts the other members, and the steps that need to be accomplished for the project to be a success.

Outlined below are a few key components to getting results without having the full authority:

Win The Team’s Trust

  • With Team Members: Open and honest communications provide more positive results than does having an authoritative attitude.  No one wants to feel like they are getting pushed or demanded to do their job.  If you present yourself as understanding and instill an open, two-way communication channel within the group, you are much more likely to get everyone on board. Establish and maintain trusting relationships with team members. They will have more confidence in the project.  Not only will they feel they can come to you if there is a problem, but you will be able to do the same.
  • With Functional Managers: Establish good trusting relationships and communication with the functional managers.  Keeping in close and regular contact with the managers that your team members report to is critical.  It is a great idea to schedule regular face-to-face meetings with them to report on the project’s progress, and how each team member is doing.  It is important to keep your comments positive and not overly critical of their staff.  Remember, you will need to enlist the support of these powerful stakeholders to ensure you continue to get the resources that you need.  If you are too critical, the next time you ask for their assistance or a particular staff member, you might not get it.

Understand Roles & Responsibilities

  • Get to know the ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ that are defined by your organization.  Unless you are managing the first project in the history of your organization, these roles and responsibilities must have been established by your executive management in the past.  The sooner you know them in detail, the better you can clearly understand where one team member’s responsibility stops and the other team member’s starts.  If your organization has not defined or established clear roles and responsibilities for their staff, you might have a bigger problem on your hand.  If this is the case, you should do one of two things – i) outline and present recommendations to your executive managers explaining why it is important to implement; or ii) get busy and update your resume because obviously your  management have no idea where they are heading, and so is your project and reputation.
  • Share this list of ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ with your team.  Make sure they clearly understand what the organization expects and what is required of them.  It is a great idea to review them in your team meetings at least once a quarter, or whenever communication problems arise.

Understand Organizational Processes

  • Firmly understand the different processes that have been established within your organization to allow for a seamless flow of information.  Review these processes with team members and collect buy-in from everyone at the early stages of the project.  Identify any weaknesses or problem areas and make changes required for your project to run effectively.  You might need to involve functional managers as well.

Manage Conflicts

  • If a conflict arises, always refer to your organizational processes and the ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ before taking a side in the conflict.  The issue should be fully addressed and discussed openly with the team members.  If it can’t be resolved and all options have been exhausted, only then should it be taken to the functional managers.  Escalation should only be used a last resort.   As an effective project manager, you want to be seen by your team as a competent problem solver.  If you can’t do this then you will definitely not command respect or be able to exert any authority.

Having the ability to win respect, influence people and foster cooperation is absolutely critical to project management success.  How you get everyone to work together to achieve the desired results is paramount.