- Functional managers challenging or questioning project roles, responsibilities or activities for team members
- Availability or allocation of team members changing frequently with little or no warning from the team members or from their direct managers
- Team member substitutions with the project manager being the last to know
- Project managers getting admonished for following up directly with team members on work status or progress
- Absence or minimal participation from team members in project status meetings
You may have done a good job of explaining how the project’s success will benefit the functional managers & their teams, so it can be extremely frustrating when even basic cooperation is lacking.
A fundamental difference exists in how projects are perceived between functional organizations and balanced or strong matrix ones. While we might consider projects to be the medium through which positive change occurs, in functional organizations, they represent a costly diversion for staff. As the percentage of effort spent by a team on operational work nears 100%, the greater can be the challenge in engaging staff on project work.
This issue cannot be resolved by a single project manager or even by a PMO – the change needs to come from the functional teams themselves. The first step is acknowledgement – if you can help the management team recognize that project work will not diminish over time and that they should consider implementing approaches to reduce impacts to operational responsibilities, that’s half the battle won.
An approach to consider is rotational segregation of staff within existing teams. Depending on the volume of project work and the available capacity, one or more staff can be requested to focus on project work for a fixed period of time and once their project “tour of duty” is over, they will be rotated back to daily operational work. This avoids the divisiveness of permanently splitting a team, and increases the likelihood of knowledge transfer between team members.
Project managers might find people manager behavior perplexing in functional organizations, but this is another good scenario to apply Covey’s Fifth Habit “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood”.
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