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3.4 Authorise, delegate, execute and approve work packages

Authorise, delegate, execute and approve work packages

This section continues explaining work packages starting from their definition explained in the planning sections.

It is highly recommended to revisit the sections about the Work Breakdown structure and the inception of work packages explained in the planning sections.

Now, as part of execution, we focus our attention on the activities to authorise and delegate work packages, their execution and approval.

The process of authorising, delegating, executing, and approving work packages act as a link between the project manager and work package leaders.

  • The emphasis on the project manager’s side is on authorising and delegating the execution of work packages and approving them when they are done.
  • The emphasis on the work package leader’s side is on accepting the delegation, managing the work of the specialists’ team, reporting progress to the project manager and delivering the finished work package to the project manager after passing a quality review process.

Work packages are first defined as part of the work breakdown structure and migrate from there to the project schedule, where the work packages and/or the activities contained in them are sequenced.

Each project phase has at least one work package. Normally there are several work packages composing one or more major deliverables to be accomplished in a phase, and the phase finishes when these major deliverables are accomplished.

Work packages may be executed in sequence by one team or in parallel by various teams. The project schedule, more detailed for the current phase, provides guidance about the sequencing. The project manager uses the project schedule to determine when each work package must start and finish.

Each Work Package must have a work package definition and planning. The role of the team manager is to support the detailed planning of the work package using team members expertise and to coordinate the work execution of the specialist’s team that will create the product described in the work package.

In many cases the work package leader will form the specialists’ team out of people in his or her organization. This is the case when the work package leader is part of an external organization. But it can also be the case when a line manager in the same company as the project manager accepts the role of work package leader and forms a team headed by him or herself to deliver the requested product. This arrangement works around the conflicts arising from the matrix organization with a project manager directing project work done by staff in the line organization.

The level of formality of the work package may differ depending on whether the specialists’ team are internal to the organisation or a third party organisation, in which case the work package may form part of a work statement contained in a contract.

Authorising and delegating a work package is project manager’s work. Accepting the execution of a work package is team leader’s work.

In due time the project manager authorizes and agrees with the corresponding team leader the start of each work package. If needed, revisit the sections about acquiring project or phase resources and conduct procurements. Those processes explain how to obtain specialists and team leaders for work packages needed to accomplish deliverables.

The information contained within the work package clarifies what is to be produced, what are the acceptance criteria of the product, what is the expected work to be done, as well as costs and the timeline.

The project manager is responsible for managing interfaces between different work packages.

The team leader is accountable for the execution of an accepted work package.

For a product to be completed, there are three steps:

  • first the product must be created to a draft status including tests to be carried out by the development team.
  • Second a final quality review must be carried by the development team before the
  • Third step can take place, consisting of a formal presentation for approval. Depending on the product the project manager can ask a technical support person to support the approval process.

During execution of a work package, it is also important that accurate progress information is given on an agreed regular basis to the project manager. This is done via a regular status update from the team leader to the project manager, providing an accurate picture of progress. The work package explains how and how often status reporting happens. The project manager is also the escalation instance for the team leader for issues and change requests. The key point is that the specialist team carry out work that is part of a larger product for which the project manager is accountable.

Approval of a work package

At least two persons participate to a meeting to approve a work package.

One person taking the chair and playing the role of reviewer. The chair role and reviewer role can be performed by the project manager, or, depending on the product to be reviewed, the project manager can be supported by a technical support person.

The other person is the team leader playing the role of presenter, either taking notes by himself or supported by an admin support person.

The reviewer reviews the product against the acceptance criteria laid down in the work package. Evidence of compliance is requested by the reviewer and presented by the presenter. Questions are asked and answers are provided. Required actions are agreed and noted.

The result of the quality review can be:

  • The product is correct and complete and therefore accepted.
  • The product is almost correct and complete and is conditionally accepted, meaning a few actions are yet required and noted as action items, but a second quality review meeting is not necessary.
  • Finally, the product is not correct and complete, not accepted and is sent to rework. Another quality review will be needed.

For products where the project manager assumed the role of work-package leader, a third person should take the role of reviewer.

Depending on the nature of the work package, especially if it is executed by an external supplier, another approval signature may be necessary if this is laid down in the contract.

Let us summarize recalling that

  • the process of authorising, delegating, executing, and approving work packages act as a link between the project manager and work package leaders.
  • The emphasis on the project manager’s side is on authorising and delegating the execution of work packages and approving them when they are done.
  • The emphasis on the work package leader’s side is on accepting the delegation of the work-package, managing the execution work, reporting progress to the project manager and delivering the finished work package to the project manager after passing a quality review process.