Authority in Project Management14 December 2007
Authority in Project Management Process
Authority to implement governance is best granted at the CEO level. It can also come from the Executive Vice-Presidential level, if all Executive VP's over all employees being included in the governance plan agree to authorize the PMO's governance plan. So, at a minimum, authority for project management governance must come from the PMO Steering Committee. Members of the committee should be proactive in announcing the governance system before it is implemented to reduce resistance.
Why is this high-level authority required? Because governance includes defining people's jobs. It is a human resource issue, and potentially an issue of legal liability, as well as a management performance issue. Once governance is implemented, executives and senior managers are held accountable for results and compliance, and middle managers, front-line managers, and workers are held responsible for compliance with standards and correct implementation of processes.
What does it mean for a company to hold employees accountable or responsible? It means that promotion, compensation, bonuses, reassignment, and even possible demotion or dismissal are the result of failures of accountability or responsibility. And those elements of accountability or responsibility are defined in the Governance Plan.
From a business perspective, this makes sense. For example, suppose a project manager has successfully managed several medium-sized projects. Based on these results, he is granted a promotion, according to the career path, to Senior Project Manager, and is given a large project to manage, appropriate to the authority and accountability of his new job title. Say that this first large project is a disaster. In an environment without governance, some explanation or excuse would be made, and either the project manager would be arbitrarily allowed to keep his job, or arbitrarily dismissed. In an environment with governance in place, an audit would be performed. The audit would hold the project manager accountable for the failure, and then seek to find what gaps were responsible for the failure, and who failed to perform according to proper processes and standards. The audit report will make some specific recommendation along the following lines:
If everyone acted according to methodology, standards, and processes, but the project failed anyway, then no person is penalized, and the methodology, standards, and processes are improved to prevent recurrence of similar failures. Example: A project has poor initial planning or architecture due to a flaw in the methodology, and is simply far larger than is realized, so sufficient resources are never assigned.
If the person who failed to follow the appropriate standard or procedure did so intentionally, and hid the fact, he is dismissed or otherwise penalized. The project manager is cautioned, and given training in how to detect deceit or fraud. Example: A member of the project team specifically hides regulatory non-compliance, hoping it won't be discovered.
If the person who failed to follow the appropriate standard or procedure did not seek to hide the fact, then the person is either educated, penalized, or both. The project manager is educated, penalized, or both, for failing to detect the error or failing to correct it in time. Example: A team member is not skilled enough for the job assigned. The project manager sees the problem, but gives his team member too much time to correct the problem, and is not fast enough in ensuring a solution, resulting in project failure.
In such an environment, the organization can protect its assets in the best possible way. There are two assets to protect:
The assets granted to a project manager as project resources
The project manager's capability, skills, and knowledge
Based on this goal of protecting assets and optimizing performance, the audit may make a recommendation such as the following:
The project manager is to be demoted back to his prior status and assigned medium-sized projects for the next two years, while receiving additional training in managing advanced projects.
The project manager is allowed to retain his senior status, but his next project will be simpler, and he will be assigned a mentor.
Governance, when operating with authority over job definitions, is able to recognize that, often, the problem is one of fit, and that a person needs to be moved to a position he is currently capable of handling. This authority increases the flexibility of the PMO or other executive manager implementing the application of governance policy in specific situations. The result is an ongoing optimization of authority and responsibility.
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