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Topics: Change Management, Communications Management, Stakeholder Management
How do you deal with functional managers in a matrix organization?
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The team worked very hard to come up with a realistic project plan but the functional manager says that the project plan is unrealistic. Losing his/her support means the project will lose key resources for completing the project.

How will you proceed or how will you handle this situation?
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Cross matrix team challenge!
1.Understand what 'unrealistic' means for the functional manager. Is it the resources number/project duration?
2.Negotiate to get a win-win situation for company and project.
3. Backing of upper management. It's not 1 functional manager. It involves the company's stakeholders which are backing the project. (Get all stake holders involved which are involved in this project plan. Is this is what only the team worked to come up with project plan , there must be some input from upper management regarding the scope and work in the plan. Reduce the scope if all are not agreeing to project plan and get approvals.)
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Dec 31, 2017 10:50 PM
Anish Abraham
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Shivanjali, I agree with you on this.
Well, in this case the functional manager was concerned about the resources as well as the duration. In a public organization, it’s not easy to get the backing from upper management, but I guess the team can still negotiate and try to get a win-win situation.
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Assuming the sponsor has some weight in the organization, they could assist. The weaker the organization (and this is a matrix so 50/50), the more support you might need from sponsors and influential stakeholders.
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2 replies by Anish Abraham and John Tieso
Dec 31, 2017 10:29 PM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks Sante, for your feedback. Support from the sponsor is very critical in these type of situations.
Jan 01, 2018 8:45 AM
John Tieso
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I agree here. Get the sponsor involved and let him/her act as an intermediary between the two managers. Often, the interjection of a neutral party (Who supports the project overall) can lead to breakthrough and a win-win situation
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I would take it up with the person the functional manager reports too. The manager sound like he/she has no confidence in the resources working on the project. The manager is trying to protect his/her staff.
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2 replies by Anish Abraham and John Tieso
Dec 31, 2017 10:31 PM
Anish Abraham
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Drake, thanks for your suggestion. I appreciate it.
Jan 01, 2018 8:47 AM
John Tieso
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Think carefully about going over a functional manager's head.
-Does he/she have some influence in the organization
-Do his/her objections have real value
-What is the culture of the organization? does it allow going around someone to make your point?
-Is there another way to achieve success, and eliminate the barrier? Perhaps the sponsor first is better
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Agree with Sante support of influential stakeholders and sponsors are need to get support of Functional manager. Moreover alignement of project to strategic objectives of organization is also likely to get support of all concerns
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Jan 01, 2018 6:59 AM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks Mansoor for your input on this .
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Does the functional manager mentioned into your story some influence? Two activities, focused on project, must be done from the very beginning, both closely related: elicitation and stakeholder management. If you performed both and you face this situation (by the way, I am facing this type of situations often including top management not functional management only) then it is key to answer this question: who owns the project? Project manager and project team do not own the project. So, if the functional manager owns the project then work with them and all related information to get the project plan the functional manger thinks it could be. If the functional manager sill insist into other plan than the plan the team got following the defined process then you have to request the approval. If approved as functional manager desires then record a risk and assign the risk to the functional manager.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Jan 01, 2018 7:40 AM
Anish Abraham
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Sergio, thanks for your feedback on this.

Yes, the functional manager has lots of influence in the organization and we had the initial bye-ins from him, but later in the project he lost interest and started to skip meetings.
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Agree with above comments, but like to add a further thought: Assuming the project the complex and highly adaptive, to come up with a "realistic" upfront plan is in most cases not realistic and even pushing the team into certain wishful numbers by management is from my point even unethical. The one who are supposed to execute the project work are the ones who know best what is needed to do. For the first iterations, they should be able to come up with robust figures, for the further future it will be still uncertain and a forecast. The team needs to learn over the project and the estimates (plan) will be more reliable. Pushing the team by direct and control into number and even asking them to commit to it, is from my point of view a big mistake. To that extend, take the courage to "educate" the functional manager for the benefit of the team (I assume the team is motivated and has the skills and knowlege as a team to get the work done).
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Jan 01, 2018 7:41 AM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks for your input on this, Peter. I really appreciate it.
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Agree with Shivanjali and Drake. Need to understand other sponsors standpoint and create a win-win proposition, also thereafter if required approach to leadership of functional manager.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Jan 02, 2018 7:06 PM
Anish Abraham
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Thank you, Rajeev for your response.
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Why is it deemed unrealistic? Find out the answers to to that, then determine next steps. It may just be with improper planning. Otherwise, as mentioned above, include sponsor to garner required support.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Jan 01, 2018 7:48 AM
Anish Abraham
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I agree on this Andrew, but somehow the functional manager is not willing to cooperate or share his thoughts on this. I think in order to move forward on this project, we need to bring sponsor and the top management.
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It has to be specific and not general that plan is unrealistic. Use measures and metrics and monitor these metrics along the execution in order to know that one is in the right track and revise wherever reqd.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Jan 01, 2018 7:49 AM
Anish Abraham
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Ganesan, thanks for your input on this.
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What is the functional managers definition of unrealistic? I am challenged in weak matrix combined with indirect communication(s) from within my organization. It has helped me to have a direct meeting with the functional manager(s) to clarify and document alignment of strategic objectives of Sr. Management to achieve team success.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Jan 01, 2018 3:12 PM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks Theresa for your input on this.

I think a direct meeting will help to find out what the project means to him/her or to their department? Also, help to make them understand that if the timeline is too short, we can’t deliver a good product or outcome.
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