5

One of my projects depends heavily on another project at a different location. The leader of the other project does not take charge of it but relies on me to make many decisions for his project.

How can I get my peer to take up responsibility for his project?

Some more background information: The goal of my project is to develop, say, the tea kettle of the future. The other project has to fix the leaks in the tea kettles sold now. I need leak-free kettles to succeed. At the beginning, I trusted that my peer would do his job and ship me some nice kettles. However, nothing happened. By now, I am spending more time making plans for patching leaky kettles than managing my own team.

To complicate the issue further, the projects are running at different locations in different countries with different cultures, making face-to-face communication a rare event.

6

First, communicate the issue to your peer openly. Try to base on facts and avoid just opinions. Direct communication shouldn't a problem these days as jmort points (+1). Chances are you peer is just unaware what he's expected to do and with some guidance not only would he help you but also would be grateful for help.

Second, be prepared that not taking responsibility for the project may be just a symptom of some deeper problem which can be totally out of your control, like you peer may be totally overwhelmed with other, more important, projects or may be just incompetent. In this situation you may either try to investigate the root cause of the issue or try to escalate your problem. I'd start with letting know your peer's supervisors as it's usually pretty successful method.

Third, there is some kind of agreement between two project teams. You don't mention any other company so I assume both project teams are parts of the same organization thus I don't expect any formal agreements but then there probably are some informal arrangements that guys over there would deliver leak-free kettles so you can build kettle of the future. Otherwise you wouldn't depend on them, would you? Now, if you can't solve the issue by yourself you should make aware of the problem people who made these arrangements in the organization. This starts to be large caliber gun so you may want to wait with that until you have no other options.

Fourth, independently of all others you should treat the situation as your project's risk and make it visible for everyone interested. It would help you to share the issue with people involved in your project, including your supervisors and also it should make it easier to get some help with your efforts to solve the problem, especially that most likely you'll need to engage other people in organization anyway.

3

In this situation, doing your peers job for him will not teach him how to take responsibility. Instead, start by trying to work together to solve the problem, and escalate the issue if the problem can't be solved by the both of you. What I would suggest is to do the following:

  • Get Skype and a video camera, both for you and your colleague. There is no reason you can't have face to face conversations in the year 2011.
  • Make it very clear to your colleague that you have a problem with the leaky kettles and that this is causing you problems.
  • Work with your colleague to come up with an action plan to fix the leaky kettles. Clearly explain the problem, and then come up with a plan together that solves the problem and scales.
  • If the problem can't be solved, contact your supervisors. The job of your manager is to help you solve the problems that are preventing you from successfully doing your job.
2

If you have already tried cooperation and discussion, you need to bring in the sponsor. This is probably not something you can solve without the sponsor getting involved because you have no idea what's going on in the other project. Perhaps the other PM is doing the right thing for his/her project. When the sponsor has worked it out, you can find a way to solve your problem.

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