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Submitted by superjac on


Despite his delivery, I respect his interview question. How do you get people to work for you who don't directly report to you?

Small company. One of the directors  created a new position and told me I was the sole candidate right now. I would be a "Project Manager" for software products. I had a meeting with the owner to discuss my contract and pay, etc. Then he told me that I couldn't be a project manager as I wouldn't have direct reports; they would all report to the director or he. He is concerned the idea is bound to fail without me having the "direct authority" to tell people what to do and when to do it.  The company is so mall that there really aren't enough people to have some directly reporting to me without hiring. It would be a manager and her lone direct. "Project manager is a nebulous title that means almost nothing."

I was a little stunned by his suggestion to be honest. I'm pretty sure there's an entire book defining project management (PMBOK), and I've worked on a dozen teams where I was the project manager. I have worked with people who had other managers that filled out their review and paid their salary. In hindsight though I couldn't readily explain to this man why they "did anything" for me. There was a shared goal, and I didn't so much view the people as reporting to me or working for me. I viewed us a team trying to push the ball over the line. 


stephenbooth_uk's picture

 It's quite normal for a project manager to have no direct reports of their own.  Typically they either have assignees who's day to day work they direct (maybe only part time) but someone else does the pastoral stuff, assign work via some sort of workpackage system to teams and team team manager divides it up amongst their directs or some combination of the two.  It all depends on the environment.

There are a number of casts aimed at project managers and others who work in a matrixed environment so may have to direct the work of those over whom they do not have role power.  In that environment relationships are more important than ever, you need those relationships to counter the lack of role power (role power may be the weakest form of power in business but only in the same way that gravity is the weakest force in nature, in the end that's what keeps things running).



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"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


cim44's picture
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I think you need to look at how the owner values "projects" compared to "ongoing operations".  Your ability to (in)directly get things done will depend on the tone from the top and how much the owner supports you in accomplishing projects in the way you see fit.