Wednesday 9 February 2022

The project manager's authority is limited - How to break?

When it comes to project management, people generally think of the "project manager responsibility system", but in fact, project managers have very few authorities and resources, and they can afford few responsibilities. many, if not most, of the reasons that determine the success or failure of a project cannot be solved at the project manager's level.

1. he cannot decide which projects to do and which projects not to do

the reason why the project manager is called "project manager" means that there is a project to have this position, and without a project, this position naturally disappears. projects are ad hoc, and one of the notable features is that the project manager is ad hoc. although the title of some people in the enterprise is "project manager", this is a false title of candidate, and when there is a project to manage, they will become real project managers. "there are projects first, then there are project managers" is the basic chronological order. it is the executives who decide whether to do the project, the project manager is just completing the project, they are not the decision-makers of the project. of course, there are also cases of self-directing and self-acting, that is, the executives themselves are also the project managers.

the profits of the enterprise come from the exchange of value between the enterprise and external stakeholders (customers, suppliers, subcontractors, etc.), from a variety of contracts, which can be treated as projects. this is an important reason for the projectization of enterprises. after these contracts are obtained, they are handed over to the specific project manager to complete, so who will be held responsible after the project fails? while companies can punish project managers, deduct their bonuses, wages, and even fire them, customers and suppliers generally recover losses from the company and take their legal representative to court. this is also why people often say that only the boss in the enterprise has no way out.

according to statistics, in 2000, more than 40 presidents of the world's top 200 companies were forced to resign or be dismissed, a proportion of up to 20%! at this time, business executives can only use the words they usually use to warn employees that "there is no excuse" for themselves. there are many risks in the project decision-making and implementation process, and these risks will eventually fall on them rather than the project manager.

the saddest thing in management is to "accomplish something that shouldn't be done with incredible efficiency", and "doing the right project" is often more basic and more important for the enterprise than "doing the project correctly". the responsibility for judging whether a project is correct or not should not be borne by the project manager, and they cannot bear this responsibility. if the responsibility of the enterprise is not imposed on them, it will lead to the pursuit of local efficiency of the project and the damage to the overall effectiveness of the enterprise.

2. the project manager's permissions and resources are limited

there are often conflicts over the use of resources between ad hoc project managers and stable department managers. project managers, of course, have as many resources as possible, while department managers want as few resources as possible. therefore, not only does the project manager say no, but even when making project plans, the project manager says no. they need to consult with the department manager, go to the business executives to complain, and ask grandpa and grandma.

after the enterprise gets the commercial contract, it will not use the contract amount as the amount of expenses that the project manager can use, and will generally deduct as much gross profit as possible. there will also be no surplus of personnel and equipment for the project, because it will also eat up the profits of the enterprise. especially in the case of multiple projects in the enterprise, the enterprise will strengthen the dynamic scheduling efficiency of resources, and it becomes more difficult for the project to monopolize a certain resource. projects are temporary, so when project team members face a conflict between the project manager and the manager of the department they are in, they tend to abandon the project manager.

in the treatment of project suppliers and subcontractors, because the project manager does not have the power to sign contracts with them on behalf of the company, and cannot give them benefits, the project manager can only ask the suppliers and subcontractors to execute the contract, so the project manager's ability to call on external resources of the enterprise is also very limited.

make an impact

in order to get out of these predicaments, project managers must pay attention to establishing and exerting their influence. influence refers to the ability to make others listen to you and follow you, and some people call it leadership. the influence of project managers comes from the following aspects.

1. resources

resources can be anything useful, material or immaterial. ownership of resources is not the same as control of resources, so project managers should focus on gaining access to project resources.

support from the top is the first important resource available to the project manager, because with the support of the senior management of the enterprise, the project manager has enough power to control the other resources of the enterprise. project managers must manage their bosses well.

in addition, resources can be acquired through exchanges with functional managers.

2. information

information is also a very important force. for example, secretarial personnel, they are to the leadership service, their work itself does not have much power, but the secretaries have a lot of information, this information is related to many subordinate personnel rewards and punishments, promotion, job distribution, etc., which is crucial to the self-interest of subordinate personnel, so the secretary's words will be listened to by many people.

the information that the project manager needs to pay attention to and grasp mainly includes technical information, information from the social system of the relevant parties, etc.

3. expertise

many project managers come from technical backgrounds, and this advantage is relatively easy for them to obtain.

4. relationships

people talk about feelings, especially in china. to successfully manage a project, the project manager must establish good interpersonal relationships with all parties involved in the project.

during the life cycle of the project, we should ask more customers and consult customers more. this will not only win the support of the customer for the project, but also make the project influential on the customer. because the more time a person devotes to an event, the greater the impact of the event on him.

enterprises have four kinds of products: one is the product that made money in the past, one is the product that will make money in the future, one is the product that makes money now, and the most terrible product is the product that meets the emotional needs of managers. although this product is no longer making money, managers feel that in the process of product development, so much effort and energy have been invested, they have feelings for it, and they are reluctant to give it up, which consumes a lot of money from the enterprise, not to mention, and also loses the opportunity for market development.

if past inputs have given us a strong sense of responsibility, and if it is more difficult to change that sense of responsibility, then we are likely to be affected and constrained by the level of previous commitment.

5. pressure

putting pressure on others can also have a certain influence on others.

project managers can increase their influence by putting pressure on project team members. this pressure can be achieved by setting milestones, constantly checking the implementation of the project through checkpoints in the project process.

constantly encourage the project team, boost team morale, and be sure to create a reason to reward them. milestones can do just that.

6. personal strength

charisma is important for all managers.

7. position

when none of the above is enough to influence others, authority is the bottom line of the project manager.

the success of the project, in addition to satisfying the parties involved, is to establish and develop a team, so that the people involved in the project can grow. only when project team members feel that they have benefited from participating in one project will they have the enthusiasm to participate in the next time. as the boss of the project team, although it is temporary, the project manager should strive for the most benefits for the project team members as much as possible, and always think about the subordinates without affecting the overall interests of the enterprise, in order to be a good boss. if the project manager is very harsh on the subordinates and extremely enthusiastic about the irrelevant personnel, it will cause the dissatisfaction of the subordinates and affect the completion of the project.

the project manager has the power to evaluate and recommend, and the project manager should make full use of this power. at the end of the project team, the project team member will return to the original department, and the project manager will provide a written evaluation of the member, which also gives the department manager a reason to reward the member.

Some people say that project managers are the most promising people to become general managers. to some extent, this statement is correct, because the management ability of the project manager is more comprehensive and more challenging than that of the functional department. in fact, even for functional departments, their managers can be divided into two categories: one is "official" and the other is "official". the "official" is the main person in charge of the department, and the "official" is the deputy or auxiliary personnel of the department. in government departments, the promotion of "official" and "official" is not the same, "official" needs to be elected, and "official" can be appointed.

Similarly, in enterprises, the promotion paths of "officials" and "officials" in various departments are also different. the "official" must have experience in the front line, especially as a project leader; "officials", on the other hand, can be recruited from among students or promoted directly from within the department. it is difficult for government officials who have not been in charge of one side to have sufficient prestige; similarly, people who have not served as project managers, who have not been front-line leaders, and who have not achieved results under their responsibility are difficult to have prestige in the enterprise.

becoming a true professional project manager is extremely challenging!


A member of the engineering project management expert committee of the china construction industry association. he is also the deputy secretary-general of china project management research association, the vice president of project management association, the deputy director of the editorial board of project management review magazine, the editorial board of project management technology magazine, and the famous teacher of cadre education and training.

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