"I'm just not getting the work from him and he's constantly making excuses," started the complaint. "I can't make him do it. I'm not his boss."
Many of us have been in this same situation in the modern work force. We have all kinds of dotted lines going here, there, and everywhere and the people we need work from to complete our projects are frequently our peers -- not our direct reports. How can we hold our peers accountable without coming down on them, coming across as trying to be their boss, or souring the relationship? We have no teeth with the dotted line structure and it takes a different way of thinking to accomplish our goals.
Yes, people are people but they are also resources
When a project member isn't pulling their weight or is falling short, remember that you were guaranteed resources to complete your project. Those guarantees were all part of the initial project discussions. The people involved are just as much an allocated resource as the budget, technology, or other considerations. Someone agreed that the person not performing would be your resource for the project.
When you are project managing or are simply on a project where someone with a dotted line to you isn't delivering what they should, manage the situation effectively. This means having good expectation conversations with that person (see more on expectation conversations). Schedule time with them first thing in the morning on the day something is due or at the start of the week where the deadlines are falling. Make your expectations clear. After the deadline passes, check in to make sure that everything happened. If it didn't happen, make a note of the reason. Is it a real reason or is it just an excuse? You have the right to judge the validity of what they tell you.
Remember that your problem is not with the resource -- it's with the person who guaranteed you that resource
Depending on the importance of what is missed or the validity of the reason given for missing the deadline, you can choose to deal with it right then or wait to fight the battle for a more important part of the project if needed. The main thing to remember is that the problem is not with the person (resource) themselves who isn't pulling their weight. Your problem is actually with the person who guaranteed you that person (resource) would be available to do and complete the work needed for the project.
This distinction is subtle but it's the key to the problem and to keeping your relationship with your peer a healthy one. You can express that you understand they may be overworked or have other conflicting deadlines that are keeping them from getting the project work done. Communicate that you are checking with their manager or director to see what you can do to get them freed up enough or get the support they need to meet your project deadlines.
The problem is then transferred to the person's boss or supervisor and off of you. I have a friend who would call this transferring the monkey from your back to theirs. It's a good analogy. It's now up to the boss to fix the issue and not you. You will then be in charge of checking in and following up with that person to make sure the situation gets resolved. Of course, what do you do if their boss doesn't deal with it? You then get to have a conversation with the person above you. It is then your leader and their leader get to duke it out to resolve the project conflict or resource allocation issue.
This seems like such a simple answer but I can't begin to tell you the number of times this question comes up. It's clear the solution to managing the dotted line accountability structure just isn't an intuitive one for most people. This method of dealing with it is one of the most effective ways to resolve the situation.
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