The Project Management Organisation Structure

February 27, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

How much authority should the project manager have and what kind of organisation needs to be put in place to support and control them? The organisational structure is something that should be set up at the initiation of the project.

Projects need governance. They need controls and there also needs to be controls and support in place for the project manager.

While the project manager should be given a wide area of responsibility to deliver, there should be limits placed on what they can do without authorisation. This is to ensure that they operate within the best interests of the organisation, and not just in the interests of their project.

Changes to scope, increases in budget, changes in timeline, even spending the contingency budget may need to have approval from a governance body.

Certainly the authority to move from one stage of the project to another should be subject to some rigorous checks and not just left at the discretion of the project manager.

A suitable organisation should be set up during the initiation phase. This normally means having a steering committee or panel that has additional authorities and responsibilities.

At the head of this committee or panel is the sponsor. In this group it is a good idea to include some key stakeholders, those being other people within the organisation that have an interest in, and the ability to influence the success of, the project. However the head of this committee should be the sponsor. While everyone on the committee should have an input, and a voice into the running of the project, the sponsor should have the final say on what is going to happen and what decisions are going to be made.

This committee should meet on a regular basis throughout the life of the project in order to review the status and to make critical decisions where necessary.

Normally the Project Manager will present the status with the focus being on the exceptions, or those areas that are causing problems or that require the committee to make decisions.

It is also useful to have a Quality management committee or group that reviews the status of the project at critical points, ensures that the project is delivering to the agreed quality levels, and that all of the prerequisites to move on to the next stage have been met.

This doesn’t have to be a full time body, it can be a small group that come together just for the purpose of reviewing each project as it reaches critical points in its lifecycle.

Of course the Project Manager plays a critical role. They should be given complete responsibility for delivering an agreed scope, to an agreed budget and within an agreed timeline. In order to make this possible it is usual for the them to be given authority for some level of variance, something like a five percent budget contingency for the project phase, or a small variance in scope or time, so that they don’t have to go to the steering committee for every decision.

Finally the project team itself. For larger projects it is common practice to divide the team up into workstream groups or product groups, and it may even be sensible to have each group headed up by a team lead that reports to the project manager.

For larger projects this is almost mandatory as it is impractical to have a single project manager directly managing every member of a larger team.


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