Last week I uploaded 25 new flashcards on this topic to BrainBOK. During the course of developing the flashcards, I compiled some notes on the topic that I'm sharing with you in this post. I believe that all you need to know about this topic for the PMP exam is available in this short article.
Last Update: Feb 7, 2016
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There are 5 basic forms of powers that a Project Manager can possess:
- Legitimate (or Formal): The formal authority or power derived from the position. It is also known as Formal power.
- Reward: The power of directly or indirectly rewarding the team member. Rewards may be in the form of salary, promotion, bonus or better work assignments.
- Penalty (or Coercive / Punishment): The power of directly or indirectly penalizing the team members. Penalty may be in the form of suspension, reprimand, unpleasant assignments etc. It is also known as Coercive power and Punishment power.
- Expert: The power derived from special knowledge or expertise.
- Referent (or Charisma): The power derived from personality traits or charisma. It is also known as Charisma power.
Positional powers are derived from the position of the project manager. Legitimate, Reward and Penalty powers are positional powers.
Personal powers are derived from the knowledge, expertise or personality traits of the project manager. Expert and Referent powers are personal powers.
Total power = Positional Powers + Personal Powers
Power vs Authority
Power is the ability to get things done, whereas Authority is the formal power derived from one's position in the organization.
Which is the best form of power for a Project Manager?
The best form of power depends upon the situation and the maturity level of the project manager. Generally speaking, personal powers (Expert and Referent) are better than positional powers (Legitimate, Reward and Penalty).
- Reputation of the project manager is an example of Expert power.
- Penalty power is unlikely to buy commitment from team members.
- Expert and Referent powers are most effective in getting commitment from team members.
- Legitimate and Reward powers are most effective in getting compliance from team members.
- Functional managers hold more power than project managers in a matrix organization because the functional managers control human resources directly and provide a permanent home for project personnel to return to after completion of the project.
- Penalty power is the worst choice in most situations.
- The Project Charter grants formal powers to a Project Manager.
I hope you find this article useful. Feel free to add your notes if you think I missed something important. And be sure to review the flashcards on this topic on BrainBOK.
PMP Certification FAQs
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The Human Aspects of Project Management: Human Resources Skills for the Project Manager, Volume Two - by Vijay K. Verma
Project Management A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, Tenth Edition - by Harold Kerzner, Ph.D.
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