Functional Manager & Project Manager in the same organisation?

0 Posted by - June 11, 2011 - Blog, Leadership, Skills & Tools, Trends & New Thinking, Views & Interviews

Job Role – Project Manager & Functional Manager

More than once now I have come across Managers who in one organisation have two very different roles. This person is both the Department / Functional Manager (FM) responsible for a specialist area and the Project Manager (PM) responsible for a cross organizational project. I find myself asking the question is this healthy for the department and the project?


Examples I have seen include;

  • A project to upgrade an organizations IT infrastructure, executives appoint the Manager of the IT department to double up as Project Manager because they are an ‘IT expert’.
  • An organization appoints the Head of Personnel to double as Project Manager in a major project to restructure job titles and salary scales because they are a ‘HR specialist’.


Functional / Department managers

These are generally specialists in their area, with many years of training and experience to boast. They manage a team of similar subject experts and all enjoy a specific home and role in the organisation. These managers are of the same level as other department managers and generally tend to be territorial, vie for resources, budgets and profile for their areas. There is a specific background and mindset that these mangers enjoy and are used to.


The Project Manager

This manger is an expert in project management and all its different aspects. They work and engage with all the peoples & departments across an organisation, manage a Project budget and will be on the same level as the FM’s.  The PM mindset is to coordinate with ALL in the interest of completing the project for the organisation. The PM & project team are made up of experts from different departments temporarily group together to execute their tasks and then dissolve once the project is complete. So the dynamics, pressures and mindsets are very different.


Can this double Management role work?

  • It could work if the FM’s & PM’s are sufficiently qualified and experienced in both roles and either the project size or the department being managed are on a small scale.
  • Organizations would consider this an attractive proposition because they feel there are cost benefits to having one person do the job of two. However in the longer term this may be more costly if the project spins out of control.
  • Some may argue if the work of a department is similar to the project objectives then this is a logical choice as well.

In practice, I have seen a few matrix organizations that are providing PM training to its functional managers and the results have been great in a sense FM’s are now delivering shared value instead of just delivering the deliverables from their respective functional area.

Athif – PM from Saudi Arabia

One PM / FM I know confessed,

“I feel as if I am playing chess against myself and everyone is watching to see who triumphs project or department”


He was actually way over his head but willingly took both positions to strengthen his profile in the organisation which sadly for him backfired as neither his department were happy nor anyone in the organisation as the project dragged on miserably.


Some Issues & Conflicts of interest from combining the roles of a PM & FM

  • Scope of work becomes merged to accommodate both roles, hence increasing risk of scope creep and losing focus of project objectives.
  • Time management – a major issue as the manager is more busy, team meetings, updates, planning will all be reduced to accommodate the needs of the project & department
  • Costs may arise from delay in decisions, oversights, missed deadlines, poor planning & quality issues
  • Quality will be compromised in project & dept. work due to managers time constraints & increased responsibilities. Checks, & controls may get overlooked
  • Resource – Employees both on the project team & part of the dept. report to one manager who decides their bonuses & career paths. They may feel afraid to complain or voice opinion as this manager also conducts their annual performance review.
  • Communications will be diluted as project stakeholders & dept. team fight for attention.
  • Risks will increase as role of the PM & FM become merged, dept. goals & project objectives may begin to overlap.


On this subject Ahmed Hamdy, a Kuwait based PM consultant comments:

  • The two Jobs are different; The FM manages people rather than Projects, while the Project Manager (PM) manages projects and people who may be not under his authority”.
  • The functional manager is interested more in achieving the department objectives, while the PM is only interested in achieving the project objectives.
  • The FM will have only part of his time dedicated to the project, while the PM mostly will dedicate all his time to the project.
  • The FM may resolve the conflict of interests for his department, while the PM will resolves them for the project and satisfy the customer.
  • The FM is familiar with ongoing operations rather than temporary operations, while the PM is the otherwise.


I do not know of any success stories, while failures abound, some even leading to mental burn out of the functional manager. The negative costs for the company are usually caused by having the functional manager deal with a seasoned project manager on the other side of the table. 
If you value your human resources as a company you should not set them up for these draining conditions. It is not human and very costly to the company.

Victor Hunt, PM consultant, author and Mentor



In the event that FM’s with little project management knowledge or experience are expected to assume a PM role there is potential for conflicts as one person carries two very different responsibilities.  There is the possibility that these projects could become complicated, lose focus and spin financially out of control. Organizations wrongly assume because both titles end in Manager they require the same skill sets and expertise. One may argue that program and portfolio managers have responsibility for multiple projects so what’s the big deal. The deal is that they are experts in the technical details of project management methods and techniques and are qualified experts for this position.


Although there is an overlap of skills, which can be true of other professions too, my opinion is that FM’s who do not have project management training should not be expected to fulfill the role of a PM as well. This is because there are differences in a FM’s thinking and department working and a PM’s thought process and project working. My conclusion is that organizations should employ suitably qualified individuals for management positions and not expose departments and projects to failure.



  • ahmed October 4, 2011 - 8:02 am Reply

    I have managed the IT dept and assumed the role of the project manager for the ERP implementation from the performing org side successfully.

    There was a project manager from the contractor/seller side managing the implementers consultants, project schedules et….

    I was able to excersize full control over the dept’s IT personnel.

    No issues.

  • Sami Al-Ghamdi July 23, 2011 - 11:36 am Reply

    Thanking you Ms Saira 4 the opportunity to share knowledges and comment:

    1- It is very important for managers who work for a company or organization involved in projects to have courses in PM for having the knowledge.

    2- I am not with double working roles , as the PM has to be in each company/organization and has a specialist manager and work along with other department/sectors’s specialist or manager to maintain or form the required which participate in acheive the goal.

    As speciality in work/business fileds required and every one should have an appreciated role and so can acheive and product more.

    Wish you best of luck and kind regards

  • Samy June 15, 2011 - 5:43 am Reply

    It’s nice to have read this post, especially your conflict areas on combining FM’s with PM’s is apparently very apt; since I’ve faced the same scenarios in projects; mostly from small firms; wherein we have had to merge the FM and PM to cut down on cost and benefit on the expertise of the PM’s.

    However, as pointed, this has also overburdened certain PM’s who aren’t able to keep everything on track and then, have things spin out of control.

    Well – documented post. Thanks, Saira.

  • Victor Hunt June 11, 2011 - 2:33 pm Reply

    Very nice and valuable post.
    FM dubbing as PM has been an ongoing discussion for years. At least now we have a document we can use as a reference to companies.

    Thank you Saira and keep up the professional work.

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