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A manager of equal level in the org chart is in charge of a team that is responsible for a critical delivery piece in one of my projects.

He generally assigns his team deadlines that have no room for error. This creates anxiety in my team and for the overall project. (Incidentally, his team is almost always late — costing money and customer satisfaction.)

Our boss (the CEO) has a hands-off approach and will not intervene. However, if positioned correctly, he would support me directly working with the other manager's team.

How would I work with the other manager? Should I take on his responsibilities?

  • 1
    Possibly the first thought provoking question asked so far. Nice. – DaveParillo Feb 22 '11 at 7:20
5

You explain the situation and the first thing that comes to mind is a matrix organization. The functional manager (your peer) handles the resources (his team) and you handle the tasks assigned to his team.

The way you lay your question makes me think that right now you are assigning the tasks to the team and the functional manager assigns the tasks to his team. If this is correct, then by switching you are actually helping our manager focus on developing his team.

If you pitch the idea correctly, and you will need some support from other managers, you could be successful.

First, don't pitch that you are taking his responsibility, in reality is whoever responsibility needs to be to get the project done. In a projectized organization, this is the PM responsibility. In a functional organization is the functional managers.

Just pitch the idea of allowing the manager to focus on team building, people building, department vision, budget for base resources.

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3

This is a tough spot to be in. I've been in this situation and have tried both scenarios.

Working with the Other Manager:

In the situation where you work with the other manager, you would let him know what tasks you need completed and ask if his team can commit to those deadlines. In this scenario, your skills of persuasion are important. The other manager must have a stake in the project. If he has a reason to succeed as well, then you'll be more likely to be successful yourself.

However, if he doesn't share the same sentiments as you do regarding the importance of the project, and if his goals are focused elsewhere, then you may end up approaching the deadline without the completed components you need.

If you think that working with the other manager may not prove successful, I suggest you sit down with the stakeholders and determine what the most critical functionality is, and then have your team work on that part. At least then you have control over your destiny!

Take on Responsibilities

If you know that you absolutely need to have the work in question completed, you could volunteer your team to handle the responsibility. The main drawback here is that it may create other delays on your team because they'll be focusing on double the work.

I would suggest selecting this path only if you're sure the other manager won't be able to meet the deadlines. This will create a burden on your team, and you may need to put some functionality on the back burner if you go this route. Your chances of meeting all of the requirements does drop in this scenario.

In the end, you may find that you and your team are overwhelmed and have missed the deadline.

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3

I lean towards "work with", but at a distance. I would recommend setting clear boundaries and try to figure out how to minimize your risks. This manager is a risk to your project and possibly the company.

I would first try to treat the other managers group as a supplier. The first person to "work with" is the CEO (or whoever is next up in the chain), explain the problem in as positive a light as possible and get their buy-in. If you have some historic project performance for the other manager's group beyond "his team is almost always late", then you have some data you can use to pad his estimates. Set clear timelines and deliverables. You might try getting the other project deliverables piecemeal.

If this manager is as chronically late as you claim, then this group should have to prove that they can deliver the 'right stuff', on time & on budget. The project manager may not feel as if they have a stake in your project, but they ought to have a stake and sense of ownership in their own.

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1

I would suggest to discuss with the situation with your peer manager. There is definitely some reason why he is working this way. Maybe there is a lack of communication between you? Maybe your colleague has different understanding of project/work objectives that you?

If you take on his responsibilities you will just increase the problem, and sooner or later it will become fatal. So, start with a patient analysis of your colleague's motives.

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