A project manager is a person that makes a difference between project success and failure. It is he who looks for ways to save money, leverage personal strengths of the project team, and fosters collaboration between inconsistent knowledge domains.
The project manager is the one who cares the most about his project. So which roles and responsibilities of a project manager encompass all these efforts?
I must admit though that even experienced project managers simply do not know what they ought to do on a project.
They know how to organise the work. How to keep stakeholders informed. How to communicate with the team.
Many keep to the job description. It usually says “responsible for managing projects” or “responsible for project schedule”. And you can see whatever you want behind those words. It is up to your personal responsibility.
There is so much more that a project manager should do. Here are only 6 main roles and responsibilities of a project manager that you must be aware of:
1. Ultimately responsible for project success
There are situations when a project manager subordinates to others. He must get approvals before making important decisions. He may not have direct control of some resources.
Moreover, there are a lot of controlling departments monitoring the project. In such environment, it is tempting to share responsibility. Spreading it thin among all parties.
Nevertheless, be aware that you will still be responsible for the outcome of the project at the end of the day.
There are so few circumstances that can excuse a project manager for failing a project. I would not even bother thinking about them.
A contractor provided a deliverable of a poor quality, and the project missed a deadline. You are to be blamed.
A team member doesn’t perform well. It is your problem.
A functional manager forced you to take inexperienced or not suitable specialist. That is your problem as well. It will not be a valid excuse if a project fails.
“The price of greatness is responsibility.” -Winston S. Churchill
In the long run, I would not even name this a responsibility. It more of a nature of the profession.
If you think of your project like your own business. If you think of yourself like a president of this business. And if you are acting like you are spending your own money. You will be fine.
2. Responsible for Project Management Plan
The value of planning is in the mental simulation. You are trying to live through the project in a fast forward mode. You analyse dependencies and try to identify problems early on.
On the other hand, you need to prove that you are capable of reaching project goals within given constraints.
The only way you can do it is getting customer’s and sponsor’s buy-in with your realistic project management plan.
If you are ultimately responsible for project success, you are the person who is interested in project plan the most. It is your credibility and career at stake.
Would you follow someone else’s plan who is not interested in project outcome much? I believe no. Therefore, plan before you act.
3. Responsible for project integration
Integration management is one of the essential roles and responsibilities of a project manager. Do not expect someone will produce results, data, and information that will seamlessly pass through the whole project management process.
Put an engineer, a designer, a quality assurance engineer, and a business analytic in one room. Then ask them to produce a solution for your project and leave.
I’m 95% sure that they will not come up with any reasonable options.
Give them a little direction, keep them to the topic and aligned with the project goals and constraints. Suddenly it is a treasure box with useful ideas and constructive solutions.
Experts have to be facilitated. Without the least hidden motive, they will provide you with the best solution they are capable of. However, it will be out of the context and in a vacuum.
It is your role to take initiative and stream their expert knowledge towards your goals in the best way possible.
5. Problem solver
Problems that do not fall under anyone’s responsibilities appear on a project every day.
And it is not an exaggeration. Some problems will be on responsibility boundaries; some will be completely new. In most case, people will think that someone else should handle it.
The truth is, there is only you who is intentionally biased to solve problems. You can’t delegate it to others.
You will have to correct mistakes of others and more often than not you will be accountable for them. Moreover, you must be proactive, and you need to deal with problems before they appear.
It is a necessity.
All in all, you want to be a leader for your team, not only the manager. Your efficiency at solving problems is contagious. At some point, your team will begin to solve problems on their own. Even more efficiently than you ever will.
6. Main point of communication
Stakeholders are busy people. Some of them are great technical experts in their field of knowledge. Some of them are successful businessmen.
But none of them knows everything. Most probably they initiated your project because they do not have the time or knowledge to produce required product, service, or result.
They may also not know anything about project management, the nature of the project, processes, or best practices. So your main role is to become a single point of communication.
You have to be able to communicate clearly project status, problems, and your questions in words that customer understands.
On the other hand, you need to interpret customer’s requirements, fears and concerns. Then formulate and communicate them to the team in terms that they understand.
There are much more responsibilities and roles that you will face on a real project. However, you will spend 80% of your efforts on these. Keep them in mind and remember, the ultimate responsibility is on you.