PM4DEV Blog

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

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 spent 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 a 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 communicator assume three functions:

  • Gathering information from project staff and other people involved with the project.
  • Analyzing the information and make sense of its implications.
  • Distributing the information to the internal and external environments, such as the donor, beneficiaries, and the 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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What is Process Management?

Process management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, techniques and systems to define, visualize, measure, control, report and improve processes with the goal to meet a goal. In project management, process management is the use of a repeatable process to improve the outcome of the project.  

Process management is a method to manage the project by breaking it down into its key elements. Process management allows for a structured and systematic and cyclical approach to plan, do, check and adapt all project work. A process is a set of actions or activities that must be performed in order to achieve results. For example, managing information in a project can be seen as a process; and in that process the project manager will identify all the activities, roles, responsibilities, and techniques required to achieve a result in the most effective manner.
 
Before the project implementation starts, the project manager must ensure that the work is defined in terms of the overall objectives, deliverables, scope, assumptions, risks, organization, etc.; and that a schedule is prepared that shows how to will deliver the work. Once the project starts, the project manager must successfully manage and control the work, including:
 
Proactively managing scope to ensure that only what was agreed to be delivered
Tracking the project schedule and monitoring delays
Managing the project budget and costs
Ensuring that the work or services delivered are of acceptable quality
Developing the competencies and skills of the project team
Proactively disseminating project information
Building relationships with stakeholders
Identifying, managing and mitigating project risks
Managing the project contracts.
 
Each process describes the steps to identify, assign, verify, and adapt the project work more effectively to ensure the project is successful in delivering its intended results. To manage the project management processes, a project manager should be well organized, have great follow-up skills, be process oriented, be able to multitask, have a logical thought process, be able to determine the root causes of problems, and have good analytical skills.
 
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”   W. Edwards Deming

 

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