Functional managers in a project: how to involve them and why

Functional Managers do not always get taken into account in the realization of a project. These managers are generally seen as an additional cost rather than an investment. However, this is not the case!

In many organizations, teams are made up of so many members from so many different departments that it is often impossible for a single project manager to take care and “know” everything.

Actually, however, many companies are pleased to have just one project manager who coordinates the entire team and initiates a series of projects destined, for this reason, to fail right from the start.

It is evident that the number of roles required to achieve specific objectives depends on the size of the organization and the size of the project, but you should stop expecting the project manager to be the only person who can handle the management of large project teams.

The project manager, no matter how good and experienced they are, there are situations in which they cannot manage everything on their own. This is where functional managers come into play.

Even if the initial cost due to the introduction of functional managers will be higher (you will have to pay one or more people at managerial level), the company’s managers must consider the management benefits that will result from this investment.

Anyway, what is a functional manager?

functional manager is an individual who holds the management authority of an organizational unit, such as a department, within a company, company, or organization, and whose role serves to successfully complete processes.

The functional manager can be, for example, the head of Marketing or Logistics, Technical Department, or Administration.

The critical role of the functional manager is:

  • To review and approve the project plan for the specific area it addresses.
  • To offer people the opportunity to be members of the project team.
  • To provide guidance, as and when requested, to the team members of the department concerned.
  • To revise the project schedule if necessary.
  • To remove obstacles for the project team.
  • To provide team members with the time required to complete the project successfully, as defined in the approved project plan.
  • To ensure that the people in the department working on the project have an adequate level of skills and know-how to perform the work.

The role of the functional manager is, therefore, essential to execute complex projects flawlessly.

The substantial contribution of functional managers is also to try to show their team members how to solve problems by providing the appropriate methods and tools.

functional manager

What are the responsibilities of a functional manager?

  • Communicate any changes in the availability of their resources to the project/program manager.
  • Keep track of the status of the project/program and understand the impacts on their resources and areas of responsibility.
  • Help the project/program manager to deliver leadership and get the buy-in.
  • Evaluate the overall effectiveness and quality of the results.
  • Ensure the improved performance of their function and effective cross-functional integration.
  • Be involved in the project/program decision-making process relevant to the impact on the tasks for which it is responsible.
  • Communicate with the project/program manager any changes to the project that affect the quality or scope of the end result.
  • Ensure that the specific requirements of your sector for the output to be produced are communicated and understood.
  • Take part in the risk analysis of the project and problem management, whenever required.
  • Ensure that the time of their resources is not excessively unbalanced between the work needed for the project and any other “routine” activities.
  • Decide which resources to allocate to the project, ensuring that the funds allotted possess the suitable skills required for the project or have the ability to acquire such skills.
  • Understand the work required of its resources for the project and any new skills they may learn as a result of the project work.
  • Ensuring that funds are available for the project as initially promised and agreed upon.
  • Manage any resource performance issues that the project/program manager may encounter and report.

Integration between functional manager and project manager

In an organization, often initial resistance to the idea of having more than one manager (especially for budget reasons) arises.

However, the advantages of having functional managers who can actually spend time with the team pay off.

Good integration between functional manager and project manager can only produce benefits from all perspectives, both for the project and for the organization in general.

What is essential is that the team has clear in mind, which are the roles of one and the other and that the communication is transparent and unambiguous.

In fact, the functional manager is able to recognize whether a specific activity related to his department and experience, can provide (or not) added value to the project. This is why the functional manager has the ability to help the project manager recognize when the project team is wasting time and resources.

In general, therefore, the presence of functional managers and project managers will not only improve the performance of the project team but also enhance the morale and commitment of each individual team member.

The project manager will recognize the specific skills of the functional manager, while the functional manager will acknowledge the skills and coordination skills of the project manager.

The right tool for managers

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