Background: I started at a large, multi-national corporation in the United States about a half a year ago. My intended position was as a mentee in a very specialized area for the next two years, before becoming a senior designer. Due to some interesting circumstances and some skills I brought to the team outside of my experience, I am now the senior advisor on the system I was meant to be mentored on, as well as owning significant portions of other subsystems in other design areas. Recently, I have been made the team POC (point of contact) for internal and external PRs (problem reports).

Current Situation: At the beginning of last week, a conversation was occurring around my work area I was not tuned into. At a certain point, I heard my team lead loudly ask "you heard that, agentroadkill?" I was then told I would be taking over as POC for the largest current project, which is very important, visible, and objectively, not going great (outdated design and rushed schedule are almost entirely to blame). I was told other teams and the customer would be instructed to come to me with design PRs and questions, and that I should "babysit" the other design assets tasked to the project. I am taking over from a coworker who has worked there for 4+ years, and has more experience in certain problem areas than I do. I understand my job is not so much managerial as executive: I don't task resources or make decisions, I essentially route information internally and externally, and provide support when needed.

Question: The colleagues on my team now more-or-less look to me for guidance about which task they should be working on next (one of them is asked about specifically here). I have no real power over them, and some are reluctant to comply with my attempts to organize the chaos surrounding the project (I work on the project as well, so I understand the frustration with new process and overhead, but the outside-facing stuff is simply not possible without some process and better documentation). What are some effective strategies to manage people who are my colleagues, not subordinates? It is worth bearing in mind I am the second-newest member to the team, and the youngest by (I estimate) 4-5 years.

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    I've edited your question as a tl;dr doesn't work with italics, that's what bold is for. – Lilienthal Feb 6 '17 at 7:14
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    Why are you asking about managing colleagues though? It seems to me like you're managing a project, not the people on it. Those are two very different things. Do your colleagues have an actual manager? Is there another (technical) project manager? – Lilienthal Feb 6 '17 at 7:15
  • @Lilienthal, that may be correct. I don't call myself a project manager as there's someone about 4 layers above me called that. You're correct in that my colleagues and myself all report to the same technical manager, who has at least three open projects for my team at any one time. I was more thrown for a loop by my team lead asking me to 'babysit'. I understand what he's asking, but my colleagues don't have a compelling reason to listen to me (they largely do, but often cut corners or do things the way they've been done rather than even attempting to comply with some changes I've asked for). – agentroadkill Feb 6 '17 at 10:17
  • The first step is to clarify your role with your manager. Explain that you can act as a central point of contact and can remind your colleagues of the new procedures/guidelines/... but that you have neither the standing nor authority to actually get them to comply. Then see what he has to say. I doubt that he actually expects you to supervise their work. The results you're getting now may be sufficient: they're mostly working with the changes after all. – Lilienthal Feb 6 '17 at 13:28

If you're telling somebody else what to do, then that person is your subordinate, no matter what the official organisation chart says. If those people respect your authority, then all is well and good - if not, then you need to be having a conversation with your manager (and maybe your colleague's manager as well, if they are different people) to ensure that the right tasks get done.

With regards to things like the process changes you're trying to make, it's essential you get management buy-in for these given the semi unofficial nature of your position; that way, if somebody is reluctant to move to the new way of doing things, it's not just "agentroadkill said we're doing things this way" but "this is the way the team works on this project".

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    It's not quite that black-and-white when it comes to managing a project or functioning as a (single) POC. – Lilienthal Feb 6 '17 at 7:17
  • Good point about management buy-in. That isn't something I've considered, but given how abstracted my direct manager is from the project, I'm concerned that going 'up stairs' too often would look whiny and ineffectual to my manager, and tattletale-ish to my coworkers (note: nothing terrible has happened yet, I'm hoping that continues, but planning for the opposite). – agentroadkill Feb 6 '17 at 10:21

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