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Project Manager Roles & Responsibilities

Project Manager Roles & Responsibilities

Author: Jeff Carroll

Determine the skills used by project managers.

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Hi, I'm Jeff. And in this lesson, we'll discuss the roles and responsibilities of a project manager. Another lesson taught that project managers use a range of knowledge, skills, and tools to lead a project to success. And in this lesson, we'll begin to explore these qualities in more detail.

Imagine that you're the project manager for the construction of a home. You'll be overseeing the work of many people. But what specifically is the project manager's responsibility?

First, a project manager has to document in rough terms what a project is going to do. In this case, it's the building of a house-- hopefully completed this year for a single family. This is the scope of the project.

During later phases of the project, these details will be flushed out. But for now, it's important that everyone agrees on the basics of the work. Now that the project manager knows that it is a house that needs to be built, they need to help everyone determine what type of house that will be.

How many bedrooms? How many baths? What square footage? What style of house will it be?

In this project, the house and all that it contains is considered the deliverable. And it's the responsibility of the project manager to document the expectations about that deliverable. Those expectations will mostly come from the people who want to build the new home-- the Stakeholders in the project. It's the project manager's role to manage the stakeholders' expectations.

For example, if they want a 10,000 square foot house but only want to spend $100,000, the project manager needs to explain, or help others explain why that just won't work. Now that we know what we want to build, it's the project manager's job to work with project stakeholders and team members to create a schedule and budget for the project. This is a critical stage, since it will be the project manager's responsibility to make sure the project comes in on time and on budget.

The more complex a project is, the more likely it will be that delays and additional costs occur. The project manager should always attempt to build in additional time and money for these unknown risks. Those are the major responsibilities of a project manager.

Next, let's discuss the key skills needed to accomplish the work. During a project, the right path or decision will not always be obvious. Conflicts will happen and it'll be up to the project manager to use a wide variety of interpersonal and communication skills to lead the teams when those occur.

A project manager is like the coach of a project. The coach works with individuals to improve their skills, but they also consider how an individual's efforts fit into the team as a whole. A good coach, like a good project manager, understands how to bring people together.

When conflicts arise, it's important for the project manager to listen clearly to all sides since that's the key to negotiation and eventually resolution. Often, the solution to a problem doesn't come from choosing one option or another, but by combining options and collaborating. A project manager should always be considering how to help all sides benefit. More importantly, how to help the project succeed.

How does a project manager lead like this? It is often through strong communication. Whether speaking, writing email, or preparing a report, a project manager needs to be clear about a project's goals and about the consequences if those goals aren't met. If a project manager hides information from team members or stakeholders, a project will suffer.

Along the way it can be easy for a project manager to forget that others may not have as much information about the projects as they do. Or have as much time to spend thinking about the project. That's why it's so important to push out details to all stakeholders. Like the foundation in the house of our example project, good communication must be in place from the beginning for a project to succeed. In addition, a project manager must analyze problems as they occur, and facilitate the development of a solution.

Project managers often find themselves as detectives, interviewing team members about an issue before bringing together the right group of people to resolve that issue. When doing this, it's important to distinguish between what is actual evidence and what is just a guess. If an engineer tells you that a building support will not hold a certain weight, that's evidence. If a salesman tells you the same thing, they might still be right based on their experience, but it's a guess until you confirm with an engineer.

If this all sounds like quite a bit to manage, you'd be correct. That's why it's important for a project manager to be organized and to keep project members organized too. Documentation will need to be consistent. They'll need to be methods to distribute the documentation quickly. And the project manager will need to maintain the history of the project, since questions often arise concerning decisions made in the past.

Finally, there's one still left to discuss that project managers should have. And it's one you're using right now. It's the skill to learn something new, to develop expertise in a new field.

Project managers aren't always assigned to areas that they know intimately, but that is not always a disadvantage. For example, if you've never built a house, but you've been assigned as the project manager, that it encourages you to ask questions of the builders with expertise. And asking questions is a skill that all project managers use. And it's one they should practice throughout a project's life cycle.

We've discussed the general roles and responsibilities of a project manager. But organizations will use project managers in different ways, and that will result in different levels of authority. Some project managers have full control over schedule, over budget and resources, and the makeup of their project team. Others might only oversee the schedule and tasks. While the team members report to departmental or even technical managers.

And organizations may only allow project managers to make certain decisions. Sometimes the project scope or the deliverables can only be changed after it's been approved by key executives or project committees. These differences result in challenges for a project manager, and that's why it's important to develop the skills discussed in the previous section. Communicating clearly and managing the expectations of everyone who oversees a project is part of a project manager's role too.

Last, but not least, a project manager must be honest and adhere to the values of an organization. Be truthful and be clear about the successes and the failures of a project. It might be tempting to hold back information, especially when project schedules start to slip. But don't give into that temptation.

The project manager needs the trust of those who work on the project and those who have a stake in the project. And that's lost when issues are hidden. Good project managers are passionate about their projects, though. They know that they serve as the advocate for the project and its members. And they make decisions in the best interest of the project.

And, finally, project managers understand the value of information. They know the need for confidentiality. And they make sure all project members understand it too.

OK everyone, great job. Now, let's go over what we learned. We learned about the role of a project manager, including the basic responsibilities required. We learned the key skills that project managers have or that they should work to develop. We discussed how organizations might use project managers in different ways. And we talked about the need for project managers to adhere to ethics and guidelines.

Thanks for your time. And have a great day.

Terms to Know
Project Manager

An individual who uses a range of knowledge, skills and tools to lead a project to successful completion.