Coordinating VS Substantive Manager

Coordinating vs Substantive Manager

For the past one week, there has been some media buzz of varying opinion regarding a letter issued by the President of Nigeria, transferring the powers of his office to the Vice President. In the letter, it stated, according to Vanguard online news 9th May 2017, “While I am away the Vice President will coordinate the activities of the government.” In one of the paragraphs of the letter, Section 145 of the Nigerian constitution was referenced, and as the letter followed, in another paragraph, the word ‘coordinate’ was used. But the word coordinate did not go down well with a lot of professionals and political analysts.

In project management, we have various organisational structures which give rise to varying levels of power and influence of the manager or project leadership. Depending on the structure of an organisation, whether Functional, Projectized or a mix of both structures in the form of a Matrix organisational structure, the scope of responsibilities and powers of a project manager varies. The powers and influence of a project manager is highest in a Projectized organisation and lowest in a Functional organisation. See figure 2-3.

In a Functional organization and a weak Matrix organization, the role of a Project Manager is that of a coordinator or expediter, thus, the title of Project Coordinator or Project Expediter. A Project Coordinator is a Project Manager, with less powers and influence on resources required and utilized on a project. A project coordinator type of leadership occurs where a manager reports to other executives who are superior to him/her and oversee the coordinator’s activities. According to PMBOK, a project coordinator is also known as a project expediter. An excerpt from PMBOK 5th Edition “A project expediter works as staff assistant and communications coordinator. The expediter cannot personally make or enforce decisions. Project coordinators have power to make some decisions, have some authority, and report to a higher-level manager.”

Weak Matrix Organisation

(For further readings on the various types of organizational structures, view PMBOK 5th edition, page 19 – 25)

In conclusion, whether the language of the letter from the President was meant to strip the Vice President of his substantive powers directly or indirectly, we cannot objectively confirm. But it is obvious even in project management what a coordinator is and the level of power such a person is accorded.


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2 – PMBOK® Guide – Fifth Edition (Project Management Body of Knowledge)

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