Categorized | Management

Setting levels of authority in your project

Projects rely on resources to undertake tasks and activities outlined in the project schedule. However in order to be able to execute these tasks effectively they may need to have appropriate authority within both the project team/structure and within the wider organization.

Your team may have their own opinion on how things should be done but opinion does not mean they are able to make a decision and carry it out. Without sufficient authority your project team may not get far.

Authority is usually required to:

1/ Make decisions on how the project will be executed
2/ Delegate a task to someone
3/ Agree something with a customer

What is authority?

Authority is the right to make a decision or policy that others must follow. Without the right authority your project (or parts of it) is in danger of not having the correct mandate to carry out tasks.

This can extend in a variety of areas notably in the project scope and change management – without effective control in these specific areas your project could easily end in disarray.

How your project relies on authority

1/ The customer contact has sufficient authority to make decisions regarding its business and the role of your project
2/ Your sponsor has sufficient authority to commence your project and make steering decisions
3/ Your project manager has sufficient authority upon which to agree a schedule and delegate policies and activities
4/ Your project team have sufficient authority to carry out their tasks (and where and where not to use their own initiative).

How to define people’s authority

As a project manager you can go someway to ensuring that your project has the appropriate levels of authority. The project initiation stage is normally a good place to carry this out – you should:

1/ Clarify roles and responsibilities
2/ Validate what authority is required regarding
• Financial decisions
• Schedule Decisions
• Resource & personnel Issues
• 3rd party supplier issues
3/ Manage scope (what needs to be done and where)
Note validating authority is not merely asking people what authority they think they have but confirming it (i.e. it may be documented in a company procedure or you may need clarification from your steering committee.) Acting without authority can lead to difficulties. Consider how an IT system may be configured is one way but may require reworking if that agreement was not reached by personnel with the right authority to make those decisions.

Authority can be a tricky one as project teams can often be short term and may contain a mix of employees and contractors – however its important that you get this right from the outset – ensure everyone knows where they stand and if possible document your delegated authority within the team to remove ambiguity.

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