There's a project team which has just got a project into production. The project was late (a bit) and over budget (more than a bit) but it isn't considered as a failure within organization. It was more like a challenged project, which you learn most from.

Since the project entered maintenance phase PM is trying to enforce specific organization of the team - who should fix bugs how maintenance should be handled etc. The team seems to prefer different kind of organization. The question is whether the PM should interfere with such things and if so to which point?

Note: PM formally is neither the part of the team nor their superior. Also the team, along with team manager, is responsible for dealing with maintenance while the PM is responsible for keeping it within maintenance budget.

  • How could it be that the project was just completed and then entered the maintenance phase? – yegor256 Apr 10 '11 at 8:58
  • 1
    What is wrong with that? Basing on your comment: we probably define completeness and maintenance differently. Project completed means here it is working in production and all implementation-related issues were solved. Maintenance phase means here project team is reacting for bug submissions, inquiries etc. and build new features basing on small change requests (there's a limit for them in the agreement with the client) – Pawel Brodzinski Apr 10 '11 at 15:57
  • 2
    "A project is a temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end". Completed project can't be "working in production". A product can be working in production. – yegor256 Apr 10 '11 at 17:21
  • 2
    I don't consider PMBOK as a silver bullet so yes, I do accept different definitions as well. Anyway, I've adjusted question to make it aligned with Wikipedia definition. – Pawel Brodzinski Apr 10 '11 at 19:17

If the PM is responsible for the budget, and the team is self-organizing, then perhaps the best approach is to set clear expectations for the self-organizing team.

If the PM dictates an actual structure, then he/she may be micro-managing. It's also quit possible that the PM is not finding the best possible solution and instead is only finding what he/she believes is the best solution.

One possible way to keep everyone happy is for the PM to sit down and determine what an effective, acceptable metric is for the different team structures, and then assigning the self-organizing team the task of finding a solution that meets the financial constraints.

It's quite possible that the team may come up with a solution that is much, much better than what the PM alone would come up with, and this will satisfy the team as well since they were a part of the decision-making process.

Just because you are responsible for the success of the project doesn't mean you must make all of the decisions yourself. Instead, delegate those decisions and let the smart people on your team surprise you.


Sounds like an unusual set-up, for the PM to retain budgetary responsibility but not to be responsible for the team in a management structure, so that would be the first area that I would look at. If the team can deliver the maintenance within budget under their own preferred structure and using their own version of processes, then the PM should let them, and only get involved if the budget starts to be threatened.

A more fundamental issue is whether the scope of the project included setting up the maintenance team and maintenance processes. If yes, then the PM has the authority to drive that; otherwise it is up to the team and the team manager to do what they feel is right.

  • Absolutely not. It's quite common in large organizations for the PM to have budgrtary responsibility, but to NOT be their manager. It's called a matrix management structure: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrix_management – Peter K. May 6 '11 at 21:46
  • My comment was more to do with the responsibility for the budget after the product has gone into live operation, rather than not recognising the principle of matrix management. After the project has ended, the PM should no longer be involved. – Iain9688 May 6 '11 at 21:52
  • I am with you Iain. I got -1, too. – David Espina May 6 '11 at 22:16

That seems odd to me, as well, regarding the PM being accountable for the money but with no command and control over the team and its capabilities. That is not unlike my being accountable for Pawel's sister's husband's budget. That set up is broken and needs to be fixed. There are essentially two accountable people and that never works.

  • I totally agree, the set up seems broken from my perspective too. But, the PM has to deal with what is rather than what should be. So, resolving the current situation is separate from changing the methodology to make more sense. – Perry Wilson Apr 11 '11 at 16:46
  • I agree, and concur with the advice you wrote; however, I wondered what I would do in this situation, where I was held accountable for something over which I had no control. I think I'd say, no! Very tough situation. – David Espina Apr 11 '11 at 17:39
  • I disagree. It's quite common in large organizations for the PM to have budgrtary responsibility, but to NOT be their manager. It's called a matrix management structure: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrix_management – Peter K. May 6 '11 at 21:47
  • A PM manages resources as far as the project is concerned even if the resources report into another functional manager. The question was about control OVER the project. So I maintain my position. – David Espina May 6 '11 at 22:00

With budgetary responsibility but not people responsibility, all you can do is identify the shortcomings of the current set-up, propose a solution and demonstrate in the best way that you can that it is a better solution.

Present this both to your boss, the one who handed the budget over to you, and to the manager in charge of the team that burns your budget. They must come to some conclusion: either the budget is too small or the team need to adjust in some way or other.

  • The project is over. Budget is not generally a significant consideration after project completion; maintenance is on-going. – ashes999 Apr 9 '11 at 16:39
  • Maintenance can't happen after project completion. It has to be another project. – yegor256 Apr 10 '11 at 9:00
  • 1
    @yegor256 It boils down to definitions. Since it seems we use different ones I added clarifications in an answer to your comment under the question. – Pawel Brodzinski Apr 10 '11 at 16:09
  • I know only one definition of "a project", given by PMBOK and referenced in wikipedia. Are there any other ones? – yegor256 Apr 10 '11 at 17:27
  • 1
    To all above (@yegor256, @pawelbrodzinski, @ashes999): whatever the definition of a project, where maintenance is required, there needs to be a budget and it must be managed. If it falls in someone's responsibilities but they don't have the authority, there is a problem to be solved. – asoundmove Apr 17 '11 at 4:14

I believe fully in self-organizing teams (having finally had the opportunity to be part of one) -- let the people who want to do the work, do the work. This will increase their job satisfaction.

At the end of the day, the PM is a leader, and the team members are the ones who get the work done. So you need to (ideally) get out of their way, and enable them to do the best job they can -- and enforcing a certain structure contrary to what they want might not do that.

Edit: Regarding the team self-organizing and destroying the budget or schedule: if they're self-organizing and know how to distribute work (and not just have everybody vying for the "easiest" work), they're very likely a highly proficient team who knows how to get things done. The chance of them blowing the budget or schedule out the window is therefore less likely than if the PM enforces an organization upon them.

Besides, we're talking about bugs and maintenance -- there's not usually a significant budget or schedule; it's just "here, keep knocking off these bugs."

  • But if they blow the budget something is wrong that needs to be fixed. – asoundmove Apr 9 '11 at 16:14
  • 1
    That's true. But if the team is self-organizing, they are most likely highly proficient and they know how to distribute work to get it done, making it less likely for them to blow the budget or schedule out the window. – ashes999 Apr 9 '11 at 16:36

You cannot be held accountable for that over which you have no authority. This is a case of assigned responsibility without authority. The PM in this case should set budget limits for the maintainenance team. This is the only control that can be exercised over the current situation.


This is always tricky, the reputation of the project manager is affected by the 'post implementation defect fixes' but the operational teams feel that the project is over.

First, the project manager shouldn't try to enforce anything - they will get a reputation for being difficult. The key here is to be clear about responsibilities and hand over. If the PM is responsible for the fixes, he/she needs to negotiate with the operational manager for resource time. Working with the project sponsor to make sure everyone knows who needs to do what, then documenting the hand over, will go a long way toward resolving the problem.


I'm struggling to understand the role of a project manager in the situation described. Typically, something in maintenance is allocated an ongoing budget that can be directly translated to an appropriate staffing level.

If this level allows for multiple people (a team), that team should be generally free to arrange themselves in ways to best perform the required work. At most, the PM should suggest improvements in that organization for the team to consider, but should have no formal authority or involvement in the project. (I have seen organizations with financial controls that require a PM to be allocated to anything consuming budget, even if it's not a "project" per a strict definition.)

If the leveling is such that it makes sense to combine a pool of different maintenance budgets together in order to sustain a meaningful team, then somebody should fill the role that ensures the work mix is fairly allocated across the products. This person could be a full-time PM, especially if there are a very large number of products being supported. In this case, the PM should have a certain authority over how the various demand streams are being prioritized, but should not be able to force the team to work in certain ways.

Both those answer aside, I also suspect at a more philosophical level that nobody should have the authority to force somebody to work in a certain way, especially when performing any sort of knowledge work.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.