Responsibility Is Authority

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development--to maximize management and technical staff productivity and to improve product quality. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects and the Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It: Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management. She is the author of the forthcoming Agile and Lean Program Management: Collaborating Across the Organization. See her blogs and more of her writing at

As a project manager, you have the responsibility to take authority, rather than wait for someone to give you the authority.

No manager ever has enough real authority to do what he or she wants to do. There's always someone with a bigger title. Even if you're a CEO, you report to a board. Even though titular authority is useful, it's not enough.
If the project is strategically important to the organization, act first (doing whatever the project needs) and ask forgiveness later. You'll know whether the project is strategically important by how many people ask about the status and what levels of people ask. The more people ask at the higher levels, the more strategic the project is.
If the project is not strategically important, don't waste your time trying to accomplish it. In reality, if the project is important enough to the organization, you have the authority to do just about anything you need to do. (You need the self-esteem to do what you need to do.) But if the project is not important enough to the organization, you can never get enough authority to do what you need to do. Go to the project portfolio and work on a strategically important project.
Even if the project is strategically important, you might need to use your influencing skills to obtain or have people accomplish what you need. Build relationships to lay the foundation for influence across the …

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"Love your enemy--it will scare the hell out of them."

- Mark Twain