What is the Role of a Project Manager?
A project manager is any designated individual that takes overall responsibility in the planning and execution of projects. A project manager is appointed by senior management, and depending on the organization’s size, s/he is accountable to the President, Vice-president or the General Manager. The project manager holds authority and sole responsibility for contract and project direction as well as control (Gray & Larson, 2008, p. 83). The project manager is accountable for contract and project success, and s/he has delegated powers to commit the organization undertaking the project on issues related to performance, which are within the scope of the contract. The project manager controls and directs all undertaken tasks within the work structure. S/he has authority over task assignment, budgeting, schedule control and delegation. The project manager makes risk assessments and decisions on task changes and trade off in the contract statement.
The project manager gathers all project-based metrics such as costs, baseline, work in progress, accomplished tasks as well as other project related information. This information is thereafter used in budgeting for the project tasks, and progress report generation for stakeholders. The project manager takes the responsibility of communicating to all project stakeholders as well as the making of project reviews (Thomsett, 2002, p. 112). Review activities also entail risk assessment, which includes risk identification, monitoring and mitigation. In a nut shell, the project manager has the responsibility of accomplishing the objectives of the project. As such, s/he is responsible for project failure or success. In order to accomplish this end the manager has to plan, budget and monitor the progress of the project. Additionally, he has to develop a schedule of tasks and time as well as delegate the tasks. In conclusion, the manager monitors and controls cost, time and quality in a bid to manage the project’s competing requirements and deliver project objectives (Vikalpa, 2004, p. 19).
Core competencies of a project manager
Effective project management requires several core competencies, which determine how well a project manager is able to carry out his/her tasks. Firstly, a project manager should be competent in communication-both interpersonal and general communication. In spite of being in charge of the overall project, a project manager deals with multiple people and entities. The act of bringing all entities together and sharing of information requires that the manager be proficient in communication so as to facilitate sharing of ideas and information (Gido & Clements, 2006, p. 107). Project management requires teamwork and cooperation because projects involve multiple entities and individuals. A competent manager should therefore have effective teamwork skills and be a good team player and leader. This allows him/her to incorporate others in sharing decision-making and deliberation procedures thus making them feel part of the project. The possession of appropriate budgetary skills is essential in not only budgeting, but using and implementing budgets meant for the project. In order to ensure appropriate use of time, finances and resources a manager should be competent in preparing, writing and monitoring the project’s budget (Hartley, 2008, p. 52). A competent project manager should also be analytically proficient. Proficiency in analysis is important because there are numerous issues that need analysis in project management. For example, in order to make decisions, budget, assess potential risk and make project reviews, a manager needs to be analytically proficient (Victor & Linda, 2008, p. 57). The ability to stay calm and work under pressure may be overlooked, but it is an important competency for project managers. Projects present budgetary, time and resource pressures as well as the challenges of managing the project team. A manager who is unable to handle these challenges may fail to deliver. Therefore, the ability to stay calm and focused even under pressure is an essential competency for project management (Gido & Clements, 2006, p. 65).
Competency in time management is also a very essential competency because all projects cycles are time-based. Time management is just more than scheduling and allocating time. The process requires critical assessment and a clear understanding of tasks so as to facilitate the best management of time. Finally, a good project manager needs to double up as a good leader. Making decisions, delegating duties and making managerial decisions should be done through consultative means. This requires good leadership skills and not only managerial competency (Victor & Linda, 2008, p. 59).
Understanding the vision, mission and strategy of an organization
Organization’s activities are driven by their vision and mission statements as well as their strategic approaches to attaining the designated mission and visions. Organizations use significant amounts of resources in projects. The possibility that these resources may not attain the desired objectives can be a significant compromise. Project managers need to ensure that the projects they ran support the strategic goals of the organization. These in turn ensure that the focus of the organization is in line with the desired organization’s vision and mission. Otherwise, the organization supporting the project may find the project worthless if it fails to add value by meeting its strategic goals (Meredith & Mantel, 2006, p. 94). A project manager needs to understand how a project aligns with strategic direction of an organization because this is essential for its approval. Failure to meet this basic requirement may stall the project if it is found not to meet the organization’s strategic direction. The development of long term and short term plans of a project have to align with strategic goals and direction of the environment of operation. The attainment of an organization’s mission and vision is dependent on attaining the critical success factors. Critical success factors are the milestones that define the achievement of success in reaching the vision and mission of an organization. Understanding the strategy of an organization enables the project manager to match strategic pursuits to the critical success factors’ attainment. The overall result of properly understanding the vision, mission and strategy of an organization helps ensure the project manager matches project activities with the desired models of attaining the desired ends (Gardiner, 2005, p. 71). This alignment is akin to oiling the moving parts of an engine, and it allows synchronization of activities to goals and objectives of the organization. The knowledge helps avoid the loss of resources and time on projects that may not add value to the organization in terms of attaining its mission and vision.
Gardiner, P. 2005 Project Management: A Strategic Planning Approach, Palgrave Macmillan
Gido, J and Clements, J. 2006 Successful Project Management, 3rd Edition, Thomson
Gray, C. and Larson, El 2008 Project Management: The Managerial Process, International Edition. McGraw-Hill
Hartley, S 2008, Project Management: a competency-based approach, Pearson, Prentice Hall, Sydney
Meredith, J and Mantel, S 2006 Project Management: A Managerial Approach, (Sixth Edition), John Wiley
Thomsett, R 2002 Radical Project Management, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
Victor, D and Linda, G. 2008. Do project managers’ leadership competencies contribute to project success? Project Management Journal, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 58-67
Vikalpa, N. P. K 2004, ‘Competencies for senior manager roles’, The Journal for decision makers, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 11-24