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Scenario:

Software development team does NOT report to PM, but PM is responsible for hitting milestone dates and not exceeding budget. Sometimes, developers have to do work for other PMs, so less than 100% of their time is available.

Questions:

  1. As the PM, how can I motivate the developers to produce the results I need (quality work, done on time and within budget)?

  2. If there are no negative consequences for developers being late or doing shoddy work, how can I get the best possible work out of them?

Other than being one voice out of many at semi-annual performance reviews, I have no way to influence (positively or negatively) the quality or timeliness of the developers' work product. Yet my performance is evaluated based on making the deadlines and managing the budget.

How does a project manager manage and motivate people that don't actually report to the PM?

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The situation you describe is quite common: The PM holds the responsibility for success without the related authority to push the workers.

The issue is one of leadership and motivation. In some companies, as Mark C. Wallace points out, PM's end up spending most of their time performing calculations and communicating status updates. In other companies, higher-ups expect the PM to act like a departmental manager and lead, motivate, etc. a team. Unfortunately, these firms realize that the project's human resources are on loan from their normal department and their departmental manager often retains authority over the workers. This leaves the PM in the position you describe.

So, my first suggestion is to discuss with your immediate superior and explain that you are given responsibility for worker performance without having the corresponding authority and that is unbalanced, and unfair, and it should change. Good luck with that.

If that does not work, then you need to fall back on motivation techniques. This is a huge area and hundreds of books have been written on this topic. The short version is that you can be a leader without having any power. It is harder but not impossible. You need to find out what motivates the people you have. Software developers are often motivated by learning something new, having their creation used by large numbers of people, and some are motivated by money. Others are motivated by recognition, by admiration, or being part of an elite team with access to information that others do not have.

Your task is to get to know your people and find out what can motivate them. Then, structure things so that those things are actually pushing your team to give more in order to produce more.

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Leadership in a matrix organization

In a hierarchical organization each person reports to one boss. In a matrix organization a person may report to more than one boss. Looks like you are transitioning from a hierarchical organization into a matrix organization. By the way, most PMs work with a team that does not report only to them. I am giving below a couple of links on how to lead successfully in a matrix organization.

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tl;dr

You don't; project manager is not responsible for functional management

What sound does the Project Manager make?

Of course the answer depends on how projectized your company is, but in the abstract, the job of a PM is to analyze and predict the project's success. If there are no negative consequences for late or shoddy work, then you have no problems.

It is much more likely that late work will delay the project, and that shoddy work will both delay the project and diminish the quality of the deliverable. That is where the PM has an opportunity. Collect and analyze the data; once you are about to make a statement like:

The original project estimate was six months; that was based on the estimate that 66% of modules checked in would pass Quality Control. In our first month, only 33% of modules have passed QC (and 20% have never been checked in). If that trend continues the project will require ten months. More seriously, QC and I estimate that the probability that the customer will reject the final project has risen from 1% to 5%; if that happens, we lose the entire investment in the project.

We could still make the original schedule if the number of modules checked in and passing QC rises to 75%. I've discussed it with the functional manager and the programmers, and they've come up with some suggestions. I'm going to let them present the options, but based on our discussions, I support their recommendation. Working together, we estimate that their best option will involve a 7% rise in cost and delay 3 features to a post deployment release.

It is up to the functional manager, the project sponsors and the programmers to make that change. PM is all about predicting the impact on the project. If you're clever, you'll work closely with the functional manager to define solutions and alternatives, and you'll present them together to project stakeholders.

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