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Businesses and organizations have a variety of roles that individuals assume based on the needs of the company. The "Manager" title can be applied to virtually any role because it is used to denote a particular level of experience or authority. The titles of Functional Manager and Project Manager are used to denote authority in addition to creating a clear delineation between roles that can overlap. However, in an ideal setting, these two roles are collaborative in nature, but each focuses on a different set of tasks.
The functional manager, sometimes known as a line manager, is traditionally the person who the project manager and other members of the team report to. The functional manager has authority over which projects the team pursues and is higher in the chain of command than the project manager. Functional managers have the responsibility of reporting to executives in charge of the team that they manage. When it comes to hiring (or firing), the project manager will consult with the functional manager as to what is the best decision based on the project's needs, but the ultimate decision lies with the functional manager.
While the effectiveness of the entire team falls under the responsibility of the functional manager, the success of the project lies on the shoulders of the project manager. The project manager is the team expert for delivering successful projects. This involves knowing all of the project inputs necessary to achieve a goal such as staff time, costs and equipment as well as having a keen focus on how and when the project will meet its objectives. This involves managing the project schedule, milestones and reporting.
Ideally, the functional manager and project manager collaborate in staff management, each person taking on a supportive role as the other leads her segment of work. The functional manager is responsible for measuring the overall effectiveness of the staff, performing evaluations, professional development and resolving conflicts. Alternatively, the project manager is responsible for ensuring that each staff member understands her role in the project and is adequately meeting outlined goals. Project managers must view the staff as the resources necessary to accomplish project tasks and lead the efforts in outlining, scheduling and monitoring the work to be done.
The functional manager manages people, while the project manager manages resources and assets necessary for a successful project. To be effective in this role, project managers ideally have skill and experience with the processes and technology involved in producing their project's focus. For example, a project manager at an air conditioning company would understand assembly line production, all the facets involved with making air conditioners and be closer to emerging techniques that improve on standard processes.