Few of us in the project world have the extent of authority that would be ideal to bring our projects to bear, especially in a world where most organizations launch more projects than they have resources to support. Given this project glut, and a lack of proper prioritization many project managers end up pulling their hair out trying to create schedules that have a chance of being remotely accurate. Team members come and go, commitment of resource availability changes regularly, and the project schedule becomes fiction almost the moment it is produced. So, how can a project manager work within a set of priorities for team members and their projects, when senior managers do not derive distinct priorities?
We won’t give you the old Nike adage, “just do it”, as this does not work. It takes a bit of a twist to make this work. In the case described above (and other scenarios where appropriate decisions aren’t being made) the astute and intelligently disobedient project manager will talk with their resource managers, derive a reasonable priority for the projects in process, and then create a project schedule with those priorities in mind. The produced schedule would then be accompanied by a note (after a face to face conversation) detailing the priorities derived, explain the rationale for them, and state at the end of the note, “I will manage assuming priorities are in place unless directed otherwise. If different priorities are to be followed, I will make changes according to those revised priorities.”
The self-empowerment shows initiative, and if done with appropriate homework will demonstrate business acumen and the ability to be practical in the face of competing pressures. It might also bring to light some issues that were not known or fully understood by the project sponsor. Lastly, it gives the diligent manager a better chance of creating a project delivery schedule within reasonable bounds, and will gain the support of busy project team members.