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Project Management

Project Role Clarity

I’ve been working with some people recently, helping them to set up projects.  Some of these are fairly simple “change” projects, others are more complex and involve both technology and infrastructure changes.   On the bigger projects, governance roles are usually much easier to define: there’s often a clear “Owner/Sponsor” within the business; the person I’m working with is clearly the “Project Manager” and he, or she, will either be able to choose a team, or will be given a team. It’s probably also much clearer on these projects what governance structures are in place, such as Project Boards or Steering Groups.

On the smaller projects it’s sometimes not so clear.  Somebody asked: “is it possible for me to be the Owner, Manager and Team?

The standard “consultant’s answer” is “it depends”.

I think it’s certainly feasible for somebody to be operating in the Project Manager role today and working as a Team Member tomorrow.  This is particularly true if you don’t actually have a team, but have a project where you have to do all (or most of) the work as well.

I’m less convinced that you can merge the Owner and Manager roles.  I usually describe the Owner as being “Accountable” to the organisation for achieving the project’s objectives and the Manager as being “Responsible” for ensuring the work gets done.  Given those, they could be fulfilled by the same person.   But, the problem arises when the Manager gets stuck and needs help.  Who do they turn to to unblock the problems or to negotate on their behalf?

In practice, if the project is something you’ve been given to do as part of your day-job, you may be asked to be Owner and Manager.  The reality is, you will need your line manager (or whoever “gave” you the project) to recognise that they have to have some ownership (small “o”).  You still need somebody to turn to and that person may well have to report on the progress of your project to a senior management group in the organisation.

Overall my advice is: agree who the single, named individual is who will fulfil that ownership role and give you the direction,support and guidance when you need it.

You may also be interested to read: Project Initiation, The Role of the SRO in delivering benefits, Everyone needs to be a Project Manager.

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