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Project Manager’s Skills & Responsibilities

This post was written by Hari Thapliyal

29 August 2016

Who are Project Managers?

Before we discuss Project Manager’s Skills & Responsibilities we need to understand what is this role? The project manager is a person accountable for accomplishing the project objectives. The project objectives are defined by project stakeholders and they are negotiated and agreed with project manager. Project objectives are related to either of these 6 aspects namely cost, quality, time, benefits, risk and scope. PMI see this term “Project Manager” as a Professional like Engineer, Doctor etc. Industry look this term as role or designation. In the eyes of PMI you may be project manager within your organization but if you are not rendering project management services to the organization then you are not project manager. Other times you may not be a designated project manager within the organization but you are rendering project management services for the organization then you are a project manager. A project manager should be a resourceful who has capability to negotiate and influence the stakeholders. A person who understands all the aspects of project and with the help of stakeholders and project team plan, execute, monitor, control, deliver and close the project is a Project Manager. As per PMIBOK Edition 5, 90% job of a project manager is communication. You cannot afford to become a great project manager if you are introvert and do not like talking to people. Unlike functional manager or operational manager, a project manager needs to manage the people of various skills and talent level. Your skills and your resources’ skill may not overlap anywhere but you need to manage the project even with those resource.

Project Manager’s Skills & Responsibilities

Project Manager’s Responsibilities

The Project Manager needs to know what need to be done to make project successful. What are the resources required to make it happen? How can he get those resources, who need to be influenced and negotiated with? How can he align the team to the project objective? What needs to be done to keep the team motivated and excited for the project work? How to engage various stakeholders and ensure that their expectations are managed properly at right time? The specific responsibilities of the Project Manager may vary depending on the industry, the company size, the company maturity, and the company culture etc. In various type of organizations project managers have different level of authority. Only in Projectized organization project manager has full authority over the project resources. However, there are some responsibilities that are common to all Project Managers, noting:

  • Preparing project plan and baseline the plan
  • Managing the expectations of project stakeholders
  • Adequate Communication at right level within the organization
  • Managing the work of the team and keep them motivated
  • Managing the project risk
  • Track time, cost of the project as per the baseline
  • Product Quality of the Project
  • Interface with internal stakeholders
  • Face the quality auditors

Apart from this a project manager may be responsible for

  • Contract management
  • Feasibility and proposal writing for future projects
  • Interface with external stakeholder
  • Team appraisal
  • Team conflict management
  • Knowledge Management
  • Organization level process improvement
  • Justify the remaining project
  • Vendor management

Project Manager’s Skills

Only certifications and technical knowledge are not enough to make you a successful project manager. As a project manager you are a change agent working with different teams that consist of different individuals in different roles. To manage them effectively you need to be a good leader, negotiator who understands the body language along with other skills described below:

Leadership: Project leadership is one of the widely used and discussed topic. You should create an environment where people like to come and work out of their will. Inspire people by setting example. If you are down, speak ill-words then you cannot lead the team. Team follows you without you noticing. They do what you do not what you say.

Communication: As mentioned earlier 90 % job of the project manager is communicating. Hence, it is necessary for a project manager to convey his vision, goal, ideas and issues effectively. He should have tools and techniques to talk to his stakeholders, team and client. Most of the time project managers fail to meet expectations because they failed to communicate effectively and often. In 21st century there is no dearth of communication tool but intellectual honesty and willingness. Sometimes it is good to take bad news to customer before they become worse but you need to have courage to convey that news in right spirit.

Team Management: As a leader you are supposed to do following activities for team management viz. team creation, team development, team coordination, team motivation, promoting teamwork, delegating tasks, resolving conflict, setting goals, and evaluating performance.

Negotiation: Project managers with good negotiation skills will be an asset for the team and the organization. They are able to create and negotiate win-win solution for team, customer, organization and management.

Quality Management: One of the definition of quality is “Fitness for use” and another is “Value for money”. I love these two definitions. Look it from customer and user perspective they spend money and time for these. Project manager needs to have the pulse of quality from these two perspective. No matter how much time and money you spend and how much high you have quality compliance indicator if you are not measuring quality against these two definition you and your customer are going through a tough time.

Risk Management: Output of the project is an instrument of change for the organization. When you manage a change risks are inbuilt in this journey. You have to be proactive and think in advance to manage risk at right level and at right time. There is no wisdom in ignoring risk and creating issue and chaos. You must understand the risk, impact, exposure and appetite of the stakeholders to manage risks.

Characteristics of Successful Project Manager

  • People Person
  • Process driven
  • Good Communicator
  • Resourceful Person
  • Servant Leader
  • Good Event Moderator
  • Enthusiastic
  • Tough Negotiator
  • Good Negotiator
  • Good Presentation Skills
  • Passion for Data Analysis & Number Crunching
  • Caring like mother
  • Minimal use of positional authority to get the work done

Authority of Project Manager

There are five types of powers

  1. Formal (which one gets out of the position one holds)
  2. Expert (which one get out of the knowledge one holds)
  3. Reward (which one get because he can give something which team member or stakeholder need)
  4. Penalty (which one get because he can affect the benefits of the team member or stakeholder negatively)
  5. Referent (which one get through another person, to who team member or stakeholder admires)

A good project manager who manages the project with maximum use of referent power and least use of any other power.

Authority of a project manager varies depends upon the organization structure and type of product, services they are giving and the nature of their customer. But the projects are most successful in Projectized organization where project manager has absolute or highest authority to make decision about the resources.

Challenges of Project Manager in 21st Century

  • Distributed team (virtual team)
  • Cross cultural team members
  • Mother tongue of team members who are working from different location
  • Managing multiple time zone of the team members
  • Optimizing the travel cost and time
  • Optimizing make vs buy COTS
  • Fast changing technology
  • Fast evolving market need
  • Cutting edge technologies
  • Continuous delivery & presence in market
  • Super specialization in various technology and getting right people at the desired location
  • Short duration projects
  • Government is adopting new technology so they are change laws more frequently than earlier
  • Sometimes you have so many options and choosing a right vendor is challenging keeping long term objective in mind

How can you upskill yourself

Wherever you are working identify what skills you need to acquire to move to next level. Do not remain certification driven but skill driven. Make a roadmap for yourself to acquire those skills. Decide funding of the skills if you need to pay to acquire those skills. Many a times if you show value of those skills to your customer or management they are ready to invest upon you. Determine how much time you must put every day to learn those skills in the stipulated time.

You can learn or enhance your old learning by these methods

  • Teach others
  • Register yourself for some classroom course
  • Register yourself for some online course
  • Write blogs or articles for your company, public directory or your own blog
  • Attend conference and learn from other leaders
  • Participate in conference and present something new
  • Be observer, read other’s blog and comment, ask questions
  • Apply your learning to community or social service. You get larger responsibilities there than you get in your organization

References and Useful links

August 29, 2016

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