Role of Project Managers

We are working in projects during our professional career. Content, size, risk etc. of a project may change but projects have managers in order to lead them. Project managers are assigned by the organizations or companies in order to lead the team that is responsible for achieving project objectives. Main reason of a project manager’s existence in a project is delivering the project successfully and meeting the project objectives.

Depending on the organizational structure, type of project, industry and many other factors, role of the project manager can change in projects.

For example in a functional organization, project manager has little or no authority in project and generally project managers do the documentary work in functional organizations. In matrix organizations project managers’ have more authority compared to a functional organization where functional manager and project manager lead the project in collaboration and in projectized organizations, project manager has the ultimate authority in the project.

Organization structure also affects the reporting structure of project managers. For example in a functional organization, project managers might be reporting to a functional manager while in a matrix or projectized organization, project managers might be reporting to Head of Project Management Office (PMO). There might be also programs or portfolios in a company, and if there are program managers or portfolio managers, project managers may report to these people as well.

Project manager ensure the link between the strategy and project team. Corporate organizations have strategies in their operational market. In order to achieve their strategy, several projects are executed. All these projects are components of how to success corporate strategy of a company and the roles of project managers for each project are ensuring that the objectives of his or her project are met. If objectives of individual projects are met, strategy of the organization is fulfilled respectively.

In order to warrant a successful project management, project manager must have sufficient knowledge. Project management requires several knowledge areas to be known for a successful project delivery. Besides theoretical knowledge, project manager must be a good performer of this knowledge on projects. We see from our professional life that there are several PMPs, Project Managers, and Project Professionals who have academic degree in Project Management but when looking into application, they are not successful enough to drive the projects! Therefore, a project manager must know the theory and practice in parallel in order to ensure accomplishment in projects.

Third aspect for a Project Managers is behavior. Project managers must be able to ensure a good communication with all stakeholders. Based on an article I read 4 years ago, a project manager spends 90% of his time with communication. Thus, communication is the biggest interpersonal skill of a project manager. If I would be hiring a new project manager to our Project Management Office (PMO), I would first assess the communication skills of the project manager.

Project managers must be good leaders. Leadership equals to influence actually. If you are able to influence others, you are a good leader. There are several aspects of being a good leader, and I am sure you have seen several sayings, articles or figures showing the difference between a manager and leader. But I will give my own words for being a leader and manager. Leader influences the audience towards a defined goal and make sure that the audience moves towards his objectives, but manager has a given objective, generally given by leaders, and tries to manage people in fulfilling the tasks required to achieve leader’s objective. If you look to successful leaders, you will always see a characteristic figure that makes them influencer. Thus, in order to be able to meet your objectives with the assistance of people, you must be a good leader.

There are also other skills required from project managers for a successful project management. Team building, motivation, decision making, political and cultural awareness, negotiation, trust-building, conflict management, coaching etc. are some of these skills. Depending on the project size, number of people, cultural climate, industry etc. these skills affect the success of a project manager in a varying level.

To sum up, Project Managers are leaders who ensure the successful delivery of project objectives in order to meet the strategic goals of the organizations and most important skills required for project managers are knowledge, performance and behavior. 

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Resit Gulec