Distributed Authority in Project Management

PMI Sacramento Valley Chapter

Jerry Mulenburg is a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification holder, retired Air Force officer, retired NASA aerospace engineer, and an instructor of project management at the university level and for management training organizations.

Abstract
Distributed authority is a proactive method of managing projects that pushes decision making to the lowest levels of the work being performed. It provides those who are responsible for doing the work—and who are best able to make decisions—with the defined authority to do so, commensurate with their responsibilities and accountability for accomplishing that work. Without distributed authority in project management, decisions by those distanced from the work can, and often do, create situations that require significant effort to re-balance or re-plan a project, causing delays, excess cost, frustration for those doing the work, and loss of motivation for the project. Distributing authority to those who do the work, on the other hand, encourages self-evaluation of decisions, selection of best alternatives, increased morale, cooperation, coordination, and satisfaction among team members leading to projects being completed ahead of schedule, at lower cost, and with improved results.

Introduction: Distributed Authority in Project Management[1]
Understanding who has what authority in project management seems elusive to many new project managers and/or team members. It is usually clear that, when assigned to a project, the project manager has the responsibility to accomplish it. But where they get their authority—and how much they have—is not …

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