Once in a while, you find a project manager
that wants to keep all the decision making power to
himself. However, it is my experience that most project managers would just as
soon delegate some of the decision-making to the rest of the project team. In
fact, you don’t want your team members helplessly bringing you every problem
that arises over the life of the project. You want to empower the team to make
as many decisions as possible. This helps the project team feel more
professional about their jobs and the level of responsibility they have. This
can also help morale, since people generally feel better about their jobs if
they feel they have a level of control over the things that impact them. As a
project manager, you need to encourage people to accept responsibility and make
decisions when appropriate. This helps the team run more efficiently and allows
individuals to grow professionally.

As a project manager, you need your team
members to handle all the day-to-day problems and only bring items to you on an
exception basis. At the same time, the project manager should resolve as many
problems as he can, and only bring true issues to the sponsor for assistance.

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If you really empower your team with
decision-making authority, it might seem that they will be able to handle any
and all problems without taking them to the project manager. Actually, this
would be taking the empowerment process too far. There are some problems that
arise that will need to be escalated to the project manager. Likewise, there
are some problems that the project manager will need to escalate to the sponsor
and other appropriate managers.

Here are some criteria to ask about the
problem so that your project team knows whether the resolution is outside their

  • Will
    the resolution result in an impact to duration or cost?
    If there is,
    the project manager must be involved. The project team members cannot make
    changes to the project cost or duration without project manager, and
    probably project sponsor, involvement.
  • Will
    the decision require you to go out of scope or deviate from previously
    agreed upon specifications?
    This happens all the time. In many cases,
    the project team members feel empowered to take on scope change requests.
    This is not right. Even if the scope change is made without impact to cost
    or schedule, the project manager must always be involved to manage changes
    to scope.
  • Is the problem and/or potential resolution
    politically sensitive?
    If so, the project manager must be involved.
    These types of problems may require escalation to the sponsor and
    management team as well.
  • Will
    the decision require you to miss a previously agreed upon commitment?

    If so, the project manager must be involved since he or she keeps the
    schedule and must be involved in any decisions that result in changes to
    an activity end date.
  • Will
    the decision open the project to future risk?
    If so, the project
    manager must be involved, since the project manager is responsible for the
    risk management process.

If none of these conditions are true, then
the team member can make the decision. It may sound like there is nothing left,
but in fact, most of the decisions that are required on a day-to-day basis do
not meet these criteria and can be made by the team or individual team members.

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