6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–The Project Manager’s Sphere of Influence

I am starting a project of going through the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide and blogging about its contents.    The 6th Edition was released on September 22nd by the Project Management Institute, and the third chapter discusses the role of the project manager.

This topic is an interesting one, because it dovetails nicely with the concept of stakeholders.    There is a graphic I created for my blog on the 5th edition of the PMBOK® Guide that illustrated the concept of the various levels of stakeholders better than the diagram contained in the Guide itself.


If you look at the Figure 3-1 Example of Project Manager’s Sphere of Influence on p. 58 of the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, you’ll see a diagram that looks similar.    Whether or not the folks at PMI were influenced by the graphic on my earlier blog or not, I’m pleased that they put it in the 6th Edition because it shows the various levels of a project manager’s sphere of influence.

Remember that a stakeholder is someone who can influence a project or who will be influenced by the outcome of a project.    The important concept in this chapter is that the project manager can influence back, meaning that it is the role of the project manager to project his or her influence to various levels of people in order to achieve success on a project.

Project Team

The most immediate impact will be internal to the project itself, meaning the members of the project team.   The project manager may have a project management team, which means those who are assisting in his or her role as a project manager, such as a project coordinator (with limited decision-making authority), a project expediter or project scheduler (with no decision-making authority).   Those not assisting in this role and who are doing the work of the project are simply the project team.   A project manager should treat team members with respect and adjust his or her style of leadership to fit the experience level and, if possible, the personality type of the team member.

Resource Managers

The book has the term “resource managers”, which is a stand-in for the concepts of physical resource managers (including procurement managers) and human resource managers.   Of course this also includes functional managers, because in a matrix organization, the people that will be staffing a project will be those who are already in a functional department, and they are being released by the functional manager from their regular work to do work on a temporary basis for the project.   As such, it is important for the project manager to not abuse the privilege and use the resources for more time than they have been allotted for the project.   You need to motivate the resource to work on your project, and you should show gratitude to the functional manager for being able to use the resource by not abusing the privilege and making that person work more hours than they were scheduled.   If more work needs to be done than was planned for, it’s best to change the plan.


Of course, this is the most important relationship outside of the project, and a project manager can influence a sponsor by not simply taking problems to be solved to him or her, but by taking problems with a menu of options for solutions to be chosen.   That makes the sponsor’s life easier and will boost your influence when the sponsor needs to champion your project with upper management.


The project management office has been tasked by upper management to direct and possibly even control project manager activities.    There is no point in resenting their “interference” in your project because they are just doing their job, at least the way that they interpret it.    Don’t be afraid to ask for advice–a good PMO is not going to be made nervous by a project manager asking questions.   They are made nervous when they don’t hear anything at all, because they don’t know if there is a problem or not.    And if they do an audit, take their suggestions on improvement in the spirit that was intended, to help make you a better project manager.


This could be the customers or end users if it is a product you are creating; it could be  upper management in the case of a internal project where you are creating a service or result for your own organization.    If there are dissenting voices that are opposing the project, at least listen to their point of view.   The fact that you have listened to them, even if you are forced to override their opinions, will make them respect you more than if you had simply ignored them.

These are just some examples of how to use relationships skills to improve the influence you have as a project manager.   This post focused primarily on vertical relationships, relationships with those who are either in superior or in subordinate positions to you within the organization.   The next post will talk about horizontal relationships, that is interactions with other project managers:   those within the organization, those outside the organization within the same industry, and/or project managers in general.





One Response

  1. Great! And I really think your sphere has more to do with the real project manager influence than the sphere presented in the PMBOK guide.

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