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As a project manager in a matrix organization, I am having problems to deal with a resource, who is responsible to deliver a task, which is impacting on project schedule because the task is behind schedule.

This scenario seems to be common in many projects with the same organization structure.

When faced such a situation, how did you conduct your project? Please share with us your project management strategy, what you recommend and what you did right (that we could consider to do) or wrong (that we have to avoid to do).

When I decided to create this topic, in my situation at that moment, I tried to talk to both the functional manager and her resource, emphasizing the importance of the project (trying to motivate them), but, as I do not have authority over functional manager staff, the task simply has no priority to them. I shared the project status with the sponsor and it seems not to have a solution.

  • Do you need more time of the person (not working on other tasks) or do you just need that person to work faster for your task? Can you clarify the question ? Both have different approaches to manage. – Gürkan Çetin May 1 '17 at 13:43
  • The person is doing her department tasks (other tasks). Tasks that has higher priority than project tasks. She did not started the task yet. – Alexandre Ribeiro May 1 '17 at 14:32
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This is a common threat for PMs running projects in a matrix organization where your team reports to other managers. But do not confuse that structure with the concept that the employee does not also report to you...as far as the project and its tasks are concerned.

It all comes down to a negotiated agreement between you and the functional manager. Your OP reads as if this agreement either does not exist, is not explicit enough, or there is a violation to the agreement.

Sit down with the functional manager again and arrive at a commitment regarding that employee's time on the project. You need to approach this negotiation like you would others: know your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement); focus on shared/mutual interests; develop options; understand the functional manager's constraints. Then document this agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding. Once you have a time commitment, that employee reports to you in every possible way during that time and then you can plan and execute those tasks within your defined constraints.

As a PM, you still have other obligations. This should already be logged as a risk to the project and you should have already mitigation and contingency strategies documented. What other time mitigators have you identified? If you have identified none, then you have not done your job, either. Do you have back-up resources available? Do you have built-in contingency in your schedule? Have you already communicated to stakeholders about this threat to at least put them on notice? There are probably five more questions to ask but I cannot think of them at the moment. This employee should not be a single point of failure unless (s)he brings something so unique to your work. So if (s)he is, then you also need to resolve that issue.

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From your description it sounds like the Functional Manager is allocating people to a variety of projects & this particular person is allocated to at least one other project that the Functional Manager believes is more important than your project.

If the Functional Manager is also the Programme Manager (looking across & prioritizing all the projects) then it would suggest that your project is in danger - but hopefully for good business reasons.

You need to report that not getting the amount of time you anticipated from this person will delay the project.

When people have to work on several projects simultaneously there will always be a priority - whether implied or explicit. If there is someone else who can do the work then you could ask for them to allocated instead. If not then float out your anticipated completion date & explain that the delay is a resourcing issue. This should quickly identify whether your project is critical.

If your project is low priority or not hitting hard against a fixed deadline then pushing too hard may not be in the company's best interest. Equally this may uncover that the Functional Manager is favouring a pet project - which could immediately unlock the problem. Either way make sure you are doing your job by truthfully setting out likely completion dates given all that you know & identifying blockers & workrounds.

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Even in Matrix Organization, with respect to delivering projects by resource, it is responsibility of Project manager. As PM, you must first understand what is the root cause of the problem for not achieving the deadline. The root cause may land up with broadly into following;

  1. Project environment side (this includes knowledge sharing, enough training for the resource in project, work allocation vs resource capability, demotivated because of certain incidents, etc)
  2. Resource side - Not stretching because of some personal issue, Don't have enough knowledge, etc
  3. Functional manager side - Resource expectation not satisfactory, Demotivated because of remuneration, etc.

If your identification is on Project Management side, as PM you have to lay-down the plan to resolve this.

If the problem is on resource side, you and functional manager (if required) have to sit with Resource and resolve the issue.

If the problem is on Functional manager side, you have to ensure functional manager and resource connects and you get outcome of the discussion and plan going forward.

To take any of the above steps, you first need to talk to resource, collect enough data, analyze and come-up with Root cause of why resource is not performing. You have to ensure that you don't have any preconceived notion about resource, park any biased comments from others and analyse the situation on ground. This will help you to understand where you have to address the gap.

As the functional manager is not reacting to you, if the problem is on functional manager / resource side, it is better to draft mail with data points to Functional manager and raise it as risk to your sponsor or relevant stakeholder leadership and own the risk. You may try to come-up with Risk mitigation plans by finding alternate resources, offloading works to others, etc.

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