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How to manage when you’re not “the manager”

Matrix manager

As a project manager, you’re often in the unenviable position of managing people while not being their line manager.

This is a particular problem in large organisations where you are given a percentage of someone’s time, rather than having them solely dedicated to your project

It’s all good and well when such arrangements work, but when it all goes wrong, it usually goes horribly wrong.

So how do you manage when you’re not “the manager”? Here are my top suggestions:

  1. Build a good relationship with the actual manager

If you have a good relationship with the project team’s line managers, they are more likely to help you
out of a tight spot.

  1. Develop multiple lines of communication between the team, you and various line managers

There’s nothing worse than being the last to know if one of your team is unavailable or is having some
problems. Having multiple communications options with their manager can reduce the risk of that happening.

  1. Resource forecasts

An accurate estimate of the resource requirements for your project – over its entire lifetime –  is
crucial. That means you can give line managers a far better heads-up of when you will need somebody from
their team. The line manager can then also plan ahead and will have enough time to hire or contract
additional resources.

  1. Timesheet, timesheet, timesheet

Make sure everyone in your project team use timesheets. This might sound like an onerous task, but enables
you to compare their actual time to your estimates. It also means you can accurately forecast changes to
your resource requirements. That puts you in a much stronger position to then negotiate changes with the
line managers.

  1. Set clear expectations

Have clear expectations around deadlines and products you expect your team members to produce. Get sign-
off on those products from the line managers, rather than the number of hours estimated for the task.

One last tip is to use a good task management tool to keep everyone in the team on the same page. With Psoda’s task management tool, found in our Programme & Project Management module, you can track, prioritise and coordinate your team’s tasks. It offers a single point of reference with a handy Gantt chart overview of your project tasks and timeline so can track progress easily.

Managing someone else’s direct reports may be a little bit like looking after someone else’s kids. But with right approach, it can all go swimmingly. And as with babysitting, if they step out of line, you can always just send them back to their “parents”. Of course, we all want to avoid such awkward situations, so hopefully these tips will help you manage your team like a boss (even if you’re not one)!

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