Come in the Project Facilitator

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

A project manager is often expected to deal with a whole range of situations that might not strictly be part of their role. They will often need diplomacy and tact to handle delicate situations, frayed tempers and personality clashes.


In theory, at least, the role of the project manager is well defined but in practise it is much less clear. He/she must be able to tackle a whole range of situations that are not necessarily in his or her job description (that’s assuming there is one of those) if a project is to be managed to a successful conclusion. As well as the usual project management skills of planning, communication, monitoring progress, risk management, change management, reporting etc., a PM must have diplomacy and soft skills to deal with delicate situations, frayed tempers, motivating the team, handling personality clashes and anything else that a complex project might throw at them.

Take the example of a company in a highly specialised technical field. They want a new website in addition to the company website that will serve as a knowledge base for their particular area of expertise. The web design company has been chosen (experts in their field) and a project manager has been assigned to manage the end-to-end project and ensure everything gets done. But there is a gap between what the company are asking for in their familiar terminology and the understanding of the web designers in terminology with which they are familiar. Someone who can translate the technical speak into terms that will allow a new website to be designed is needed. Guess what – that role is also assigned to the project manager. Perhaps more accurately his title should be Project Facilitator, after all it is his job to simply get things done.

This role of project facilitator will be important in both getting the project off to a good start and ensuring it is completed successfully. It will involve assisting in resolving issues of all types, general problem solving and, in the above example, mediation between two parties to ensure they understand one another’s perspective. Both parties are well experienced in their own fields so the project facilitator must bring other clear benefits to the project by making it easier to achieve the desired outcome and ensuring that outcome is better than it would have been without his input. He must promote useful discussions between the different groups that contribute to better decisions and better understanding of what is required. He should also be adept at avoiding non-constructive discussions and disagreements and generally keeping the peace with the sole purpose of completing the project to everyone’s satisfaction.

That’s quite a tall order and often raises the issue of whether the project facilitator needs to be a subject matter expert or not. And the answer is “It depends…”. It depends on the type of project and the skills and expertise of those involved in the project. The facilitator role does not necessarily have to be taken up by the manager but someone with the skills and wisdom to deal with different groups. Technical knowledge of the field is not necessary if the facilitator has experience presenting information in a way that everyone can understand, can guide and control the dynamics of the project team and deal with the challenges of human interaction within and between teams involved in the project.

The ability to act as a project facilitator can be an additional weapon in the arsenal of a project manager and many project management courses include practical advice and tips on developing the skills necessary to work effectively as a facilitator in addition to offering formal PM training

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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