Sunday, March 23, 2014

How Does a PM Define Responsibility?

Recently, a colleague of mine asked me about the responsibilities of a Project Manager (PM) and the project team. Now, I must tell you that within a Project Management Office (PMO), defining responsibility may be a process unto itself. I have written about the fear of “process paralysis” that may come with an overly defined and micromanaged PMO. I have also written about the fear of an agile PMO becoming more ad hoc, which would lead to an out of control state. With those two statements, I have never addressed the initiation of a project. So when a PM is assigned to a project as the leader, not just the manager of the project, what steps should the PM take to define responsibility?

Can a PM Define the Responsibility of Other Project Team Members?
Yes. But as all short answers, there is a second part to the answer. The PM can and should request the authority to define responsibility and the authority to keep the project team members focused. That not only comes from the PM’s management, but with the cooperation of the project sponsor and the project team members’ management.
So when a PM receives a project, the PM must meet with the project sponsor and discuss the project team members and identify who is best suited for the project. Keeping in mind that sometimes the PM and the project sponsor do not always get the resources they believe would be best suited for the project, they must also pick a second person and think about what the plan B would be.  If the PM has been with the organization for some time, the PM should already have an idea of who will be best suited for the project tasks and who will be best suited for that specific responsibility. The project sponsor should be able to provide the PM with some guidance here also. If the project sponsor has had other projects in the organization, the sponsor will have valuable input on the project team members.
Once the team has been allocated and given to the PM, the PM should begin with team building by meeting with the team first and then meeting with the team members individually. At the team meeting, the PM should come with the project sponsor and discuss the goals of the project. Also, the PM should begin scheduling times to have project-building meetings to plan the project. At the individual meetings, the PM should come alone and be less formal, and discuss the expectations and responsibilities for that specific team member.

When the team meets for the first project-building meeting, everyone should build, acknowledge, and accept responsibility for their tasks. It is at that time that project scheduling should begin. In most organizations, the project team members are cross-functional, meaning they come from different divisions of the organization. For example, development, accounting, HR, and so on. So when building the plan and then the schedule, the PM and the whole project team must realize and accept that everyone on that team has their “full-time job” as well as being part of this project, especially the project sponsor.  
What is the PM’s Role in Defining Responsibility?
The PM must be the one source of knowledge and stability in the project. The PM is the one who keeps the whole project plan, not just the schedule, but the communication plan, the HR plan, and so on in a central repository that all of the project team members can access them.
Also, the PM should begin scheduling times to have project-building meetings to plan the project. At the individual meetings, the PM should come alone and be less formal, and discuss the expectations and responsibilities for that specific team member. When the team meets for the first project-building meeting, everyone should build, acknowledge, and accept responsibility for their tasks. It is at that time that project scheduling should begin. In most organizations, the project team members are cross-functional.
How the PM Keep Project Team Members Does Focused on Their Responsibilities?
In the project plan, the roles and responsibilities must be kept by the PM, who must ensure that the team members keep to the plan and their roles and responsibilities. Upon seeing that a project team member is underperforming, the PM must take action. The PM must also keep the team members motivated (see my blog on that topic at: http://blog.bennythepm.com/2013/03/how-to-keep-project-manager-and-project.html). The introductory meeting should set the tone, and along with the project sponsor, the PM should keep the teams’ eye on the goals of the project. However, if a team member is not “pulling their weight” the PM must address that as soon as possible. (I have written about that specifically in an earlier blog (http://blog.bennythepm.com/2013/02/how-to-deal-with-underperforming.html ).  
The PM is the mini COO as the project sponsor is the mini CEO. Those roles must not change and must be accepted by both the PM and the project sponsor.  However, both must never forget that they are the leaders, and that holds especially true for the PM.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.