PM4DEV Blog

Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Leadership

The Roles of the Project Manager

Development organizations appoint a project manager for the depth of his or her technical skills. It is not unusual to find a good engineer being promoted to project manager just for his or her technical competence. While it is true that one must have a good understanding of the technical aspects of the project, project managers are also required to have good management skills such as communicating; planning, negotiating, coaching, decision-making, and leadership. These skills are often overlooked at the time of hiring or appointing a project manager.

The job descriptions for a project manager need to be more explicit in defining the managerial skills and competencies required for the job. Organizations usually assign a project manager with the idea that all that is required is expertise in a technical area and often forget the need to have a project manager with the skills to lead a project team, coordinate the use of resources, communicate with stakeholders and manage the project constraints, all at the same time.

Organizations need to build a better understanding of the role of a project manager and understand that this role is not the same as a technical manager. The project manager role is one of integrator, communicator and facilitator; this role is of equal or more importance than the role of a technical manager.

There are three critical roles of the project manager:

  • Integrator; ensures all the project activities, strategies and approaches are an integrated effort.
  • Communicator; most of the work is spend here, communicating with all stakeholders and building the right support and relationships.
  • Leader; motivating and inspiring a team to deliver the project work by providing a vision and direction.

A key responsibility of the project manager is to ensure the proper integration of the project management processes and coordinate the project phases through the project management cycle. This responsibility is to ensure that all areas of the project come together to deliver the project to a successful conclusion. This is the main role of the project manager; it is not related to the technical responsibilities of the project, which in most cases are managed by the project staff. The role of integrator involves three specific areas of responsibility:

  • Develop the project management plans, which consists of the development of all project planning documents into a consistent, coherent project plan document.
  • Implement the project plan, which involves the execution of the project plan and ensuring all activities are performed by all the people involved.
  • Monitor and control the plan, which involves measuring the initial results against the intended objectives and coordinating all changes to the plans.

As communicator the project manager ensures that all stakeholders receive the right information at the right time. This is an important role. The project manager has a holistic view of the project and is in the best position to know the why, when, what and how the project is doing and communicate progress, changes and risks to the parties involved. Studies confirm that the project manager spends about 80% of his/her time communicating. Project managers in the role of communicators assume three functions:

  • Gathering information from project staff and other people involved with the project;
  • Analyzing the information and make sense of its implications; a
  • Distributing the information to the internal and external environments, such as the donor, beneficiaries, and the general public to gain support for the project.

As leader, the project manager must ensure the team and project stakeholders have an understanding of the project vision. A leader inspire others to achieve the project objectives, the leader encourages full participation from the project team, promotes mutual understanding with the beneficiaries and cultivates shared responsibility among all project stakeholders.

The leadership role implies the skills to:

  • Facilitate: To ease and assist the project team to do their work
  • Coordinate: To organize, direct and synchronize the efforts of all involved in the project
  • Motivate: To inspire, stimulate and encourage the team to achieve the project objectives

 These roles are integrated and cannot be treated as separate, and they are critical to the success of any project manager.

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Leadership Qualities of a Project Manager

b2ap3_thumbnail_lead.jpgBeing a successful project manager depends not only on what you do, but also on how you do it. Your attitudes and behaviors toward people affect how they respond to that person. The following nine  tips here can help you become a better leader.

Tell your team what you want, not how to do it. You will find your team more responsive and less defensive if you can give them guidance not instructions. You will also see more initiative, more innovation, and more of ownership attitude from them develop over time.

Don't DO Anything. Your job as a project manager is to "plan, organize, control and direct." Do not waste valuable time by falling back on what you did before you became a manager. You may enjoy it and you are good at it. That is why you were promoted to project manager. Now you need to concentrate your efforts on managing, not on "doing".

Get out of your desk. Management By Walking Around (MBWA) does work. You make yourself more approachable. You get information first-hand. You find out what's really happening.

Set  S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Goals you set for yourself, or others, should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Set an example. "One of the most significant parts of a project manager’s job is for them to become a positive role model that can pull a team together and deliver the level of service expected from their stakeholders and beneficiaries."

Actively listen. Listen to your stakeholders, beneficiaries, your team, your suppliers, and anyone else who is involved with your project. Honestly evaluate what they have to say, and you will probably learn something that benefits your project.

Leaders create change. If you lead, you will cause changes. Be prepared for them and their impact on people within, and outside, your group. If you are not making changes, you are not leading.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. The ability to communicate with people at all levels is almost always named as the second most important skill by project managers and team members. Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback.

Fix the problem, not the blame. It is far more productive, and less expensive, to figure out what to do to fix a problem that has come up than it is to waste time trying to decide whose fault it was.

Get your people involved. It's a lot easier to get your team to stand behind a management  decision if they have the opportunity to participate in the discussion. Management still has to make the decision, but if they have had the opportunity to make their point of view known, the team is more apt to stand behind the decision.

  “We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

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