Being a Project Manager is a multi-skilled role and when I was thinking recently about what exactly that role involved my first thoughts, naturally, were the “managing” aspects. It is fairly obvious that a project manager manages:
But being an effective, successful project manager involves far more than simply “managing” those elements of a project, whatever industry you might be in. It also involves co-ordinating different teams, internally in different departments and externally at suppliers or providers of outsourced activities. It involves co-ordinating dependencies within the project – a major task in complex and global projects.
And what about the people? If you want to be truly outstanding and you want your projects to be consistently successful then you need to be motivating, encouraging and developing your team. Even holding their hands and mopping their brows when necessary. Dealing with a whole range of staffing issues, including interviewing and recruitment often fall into the lap of the project manager. So this really isn’t the role for you if you simply want to sit in your office with your schedules, charts and progress reports.
And, of course, as a project manager you don’t just need to report the progress of a project to senior management and explain why issues have arisen (as they always do), you must deal with the issues that have occurred and ensure they do not affect the schedule and budget. On top of all that you must have a good understanding of all the work that is being carried out to ensure it is within the scope of the project and actually ensure that all necessary work gets done. After all, project management is simply about getting things done.
These are only some of the most obvious items that a project manager becomes involved with. Depending on the type of project there could be many more. For example, on IT projects there may be the need to become involved in technical meetings, technical specifications and functional and user-testing. Because of their added complexity (not to mention their high failure rate) IT project managers typically come from an IT background.
But before we get carried away with what is expected of a project manager what about the less obvious areas that a project manager will, and should, be involved in such as:
- Championing the vision of the project
- Promoting the benefits of the project
- Retaining momentum throughout the project
So it is hard to actually define where the boundaries of project management start and end. I suspect that if a full job description of a project manager’s role was ever written that nobody would take the job. But then again it’s a bit like stage fright – it all seems worth it when you achieve success. So develop your skills with professional project management courses, learn from your own, and others’, experience and never be surprised at what you might be expected to do next.