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Senior Management Enablers for Distributed Project Teams

SERIES ARTICLE

Program Management Commentary

By Russ Martinelli, Tim Rahschulte & James Waddell

Program Management Academy

Oregon, USA
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In our last article we touched on the practices and capabilities that help drive participation, collaboration and integration in a highly distributed team.  This article will focus more generally on some key organizational enablers that enhance the probability of success for the team working in a global or highly distributed environment.  These enablers are owned and driven for the most part by the organization’s senior management.

As pointed out by Hildenbrant & Brandi in a recent white paper, “Global Project Management Enablers”, “the project oriented company has high project maturity and provides the framework that enables the global project team to work optimally.  Project maturity is the measure of both how competent the organization is in practicing project management and how the balance of power is between the project organization and the line organization”.1 This need for balance of course, raises the need to clarify the need for empowering the project team so that responsibility and authority is appropriately understood across the organizational management structure.

Team Empowerment

The nature of highly distributed teams is that they are dispersed across multiple geographical sites.  This creates a complex management situation whereby the team needs to work and manage across numerous functional organization boundaries.  Successful project-based organizations proactively address this complex situation by clarifying roles and responsibilities between project leaders and line management leaders.

This is necessary to ensure that project leaders are empowered with the appropriate level of decision-making authority that is necessary to effectively manage the project resources required to meet the business and operational objectives that they are assigned by senior management.  These roles and responsibilities need to be well communicated to all groups within an organization that are vested in the success of a project so that they understand who has responsibility and authority for managing the project resources.

Formal Escalation Process

When elements of the firm’s organization are dispersed across multiple geographical sites, an important process that is needed for project teams is a formalized escalation process.  Many times, major barriers need to be addressed and decisions made that are outside the scope and authority of the project team leader…

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Editor’s note: The Program Management Commentary series includes articles by Russ Martinelli, Tim Rahschulte and Jim Waddell, principle consultants at the Program Management Academy.  The authors have extensive experience working on international programs in technology industries, and are the authors of Leading Global Project Teams and Program Management for Improved Business Results.  More information at  www.programmanagement-academy.com

About the Authors

Russ Martinelli

Co-Author                    

Russ Martinelli is co-founder of the Program Management Academy and co-author of Leading Global Project Teams and the comprehensive book on program management titled Program Management for Improved Business Results.  As a senior program manager at Intel Corporation, Russ has many years of experience leading global product development teams in both the aerospace and computing industries.  Russ can be contacted at [email protected]

Tim Rahschulte

Co-Author

Tim Rahschulte is co-author of Leading Global Project Teams and an executive director at the Program Management Academy. Tim is also responsible for international management and leadership studies at George Fox University in Oregon.  He consults with state governments in the USA on matters of organizational change as a business transition architect.  Contact Tim at [email protected].

Jim Waddell

Co-Author

Jim Waddell, former director of program management for Tektronix, is a co-founder of the Program Management Academy.  He is an experienced management consultant in his fields of expertise: program management, mergers and acquisitions. He has held a variety of management positions, has been a speaker at numerous conferences, and is a co-author of Leading Global Project Teams, and Program Management for Improved Business Results.  Jim can be contacted at [email protected].