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Authorized to Manage – in a Projectized Organization (#8 in the series Authorized to Manage)
By Thomas Cutting

This is the last in a series looking at authority. To wrap up we will focus on the projectized organization and give some practical tips for leading in this environment.

Control is but an illusion.

Projectized Organization.

In a projectized environment teams are formed of resources that, if not hired directly for the project, are assigned almost 100% to it. You, as the project manager, are given nearly total control of the resources, budget, scope and schedule. You are in control.

As a leader in this environment, the first thing to remember is that all authority is temporary. Your positional authority is highest at the beginning of the project. By decree of the Charter you have been crowned project manager. Use that formal authority as a basis to quickly build other types.

You can increase your referent authority as you get to know the team members. Understand their individual strengths, goals and motivations. Are they glad to be on this project or do they see it as a side step in their career? As you ask questions and interact with them they will begin to see your character and decide if they can trust you to lead.

Throughout the project, exercise your reward/penalty authority by offering additional training or better opportunities to your strong performers. Review the budget and see if there room for team lunches to mark major milestones. Address poor performance as it is identified. Do this by focusing on the performance (ex. Quality or Schedule), not the person.

Your project management abilities and organizational knowledge are part of your expert authority. By keeping the team informed of the big picture and how they fit in to it you can build their trust. This is especially true as the project moves toward completion. In a projectized organization there is no functional group to fall back to when finished. Resources tend to get nervous as they near the project end. Let them know well in advance when their end date is. If possible, work with them to identify the next project they will be working on. To address potential employee retention problems toward the end of a project you may want to consider monetary incentives to keep them through the end.

In the final analysis, the key to successfully managing any project is to recognize where the real authority lies, how much you personally have and where you derive it from. In the final analysis, project management is as much a position of dependency as it is one of authority. If you can’t convince the team to follow, you can’t lead. Understanding Positional, Referent, Reward/Penalty and Expert authority offers you the necessary tools to manage successfully.

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge ( and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at (

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