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PM Authority

Posted on | November 1, 2007 | Comments Off on PM Authority

Much has been said and written about the PM authority or lack thereof. The 3rd edition of the PMBOK says that the project charter document addresses who the project manager is and his or her authority level. Is this enough for the PM? What authority are we talking about? And, what level of authority?

In most organizations, the PM, literally, has very little to no authority at all. He or she, however, has all the accountability and responsibility for the final outcome of the project. Funny, isn’t it? It is funny but it’s critical.

First, the authority has to be provided in writing by someone such as the organization itself through policies, the project sponsor, or your boss. Unfortunately, this is largely ignored by most and produces devastating results for the project, and ultimately, the organization itself. Politics is one of the reasons why this is ignored; a PM cannot have so much power. The PM, and especially a PMP® certified PM, has an obligation to ensure that authority is granted. This is the power needed to make things happen.

Second, the authority given must have clear duties or responsibilities: this is the level of authority. In most cases, in a very political environment, the PM is provided with authority just to comply with policies and/or project management standards used by the organization but there is no clear understanding of what the duties or responsibilities are. They must be spelled out and communicated to all project stakeholders: defining the project, leading the project team, hiring/firing of team members, communicating progress status, etc.

When the above is lacking it is very challenging for the PM because now you have to get results without authority. The PM will then have to have such control of the project that it can be counterproductive.

The PM has to have authority and responsibilities to manage a project because at the end of the day, when the project fails, there is only one person your boss will look to for answers: you. Don’t you think so…? Well, I do.


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