What Is Dotted-Line Reporting?

“What Is Dotted-Line Reporting?” on Lattice, July 26, 2021.

Determine when it makes sense.

The term “dotted line” comes from the lines on an organizational chart. The solid line points to an employee’s primary boss; a dotted line indicates a secondary supervisor. This management strategy can be useful in a number of scenarios…

Or, when an organization starts a large project, an employee may be assigned to part of it while continuing their usual tasks. Here, the individual has a solid-line relationship with their original boss and a dotted-line relationship to the project manager, said Alan Zucker, Founding Principal of Project Management Essentials, which provides project management and leadership training and consulting services.

In Zucker’s experience, the arrangement works best during short-term projects where employees have a start and stop date to the relationship with their dotted-line manager.

Know when to adjust.

Sometimes dotted-line relationships don’t work out, or, as projects and teams morph, it becomes clear that the dotted line needs to change to a solid-line arrangement. Be ready to adjust and restructure just like with any other management strategy, Zucker said — and be open to hearing the concerns and criticisms of those you work with.

“You’re going to know that it’s time to make changes when things aren’t working,” Zucker said. “Your people will tell you if you’ll listen.”