Check Your Authority

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I have found that some projects (and some whole organisations and their project managers) don’t identify who has authority or who is responsible for what.

The team members (and even the project manager) don’t know who is responsible for many aspects of a project that need someone to be responsible:

  • Issue or approval an invoice
  • Approval of a drawing for issue to a client
  • Approval of a document for issue to a client
  • Sign-off or witnessing hold points during construction
  • Authorising variations (either to the client, or from a contractor)
  • Commissioning

This can cause problems and delays in the project schedule. It can also cause big problems in alliance projects, where there are multiple senior responsible people. Without clear identification on who can do what or who can authorise what, some approvals may be done when they shouldn’t or some may get overlooked and delay the project.


Some project managers try to do all this themselves, and on small projects that may work fine. But on larger or more complex projects I believe the project manager (or project director) should delegate authority to certain team members to do some of those tasks.

If you join a project team, you should make sure you are aware of what you can and cannot approve. You should do this also as project manager, to ensure you can approve what is required, and also so that you allocate responsibility and authority to the appropriate people.

Financial items are often well document (often within the rules of the company) but I find that projects often tend to overlook allocating responsibility for other items that are specifically financial.

You should also ensure that your project identifies what your company is responsible for and what is by others (the client, other contractors, subcontractors, other alliance members etc).

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The contract should clarify who (as in which contracted party) is responsible for each aspect of the project (e.g. design, engineering certification, building certification, construction sign-off, operations and maintenance manuals etc).


Avoid problems later by checking early in the project who is responsible for what aspect of the project and who has authority to approve what. Make sure this is documented and communicated clearly between your project and the client (or sub-contractors) and also with your project team.


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