Small companies often begin life without a formal project manager. Over time, the position eventually develops as the organization begins projects and leaders come forward. Once the organization reaches the point of needing a formal project manager, it makes sense to develop a job description to aid in replacing the existing individual should the situation become necessary.
The project manager has three primary responsibilities. The first is planning. The project manager is responsible for collecting data from the customer and other stakeholders and defining the project objecting based on that research. With the help of the project team, the project manager develops a plan to achieve the defined objective within the customer’s expected time frame. The involvement of the project team is crucial during the planning phase as no single project manager can be expected to understand all facets of an involved project. Additionally, involving the project team in the planning process ensures support of the team as the project gets underway (Gido & Clements, 2009).
The project manager is also responsible for organizing the resources necessary for completion of the project. This means not only gathering the people necessary for the project, but determining which parts of the project should be outsourced to more experienced contractors. Once the project staff, both in-house and outsourced, is assembled, the project manager must delegate responsibilities to the appropriate parties. This delegation process clearly defines the tasks each team member is responsible for, and in the case of contractors, a budget is set. It is important for the project manager to organize the team in such a way that each project member is motivated to accomplish her tasks and help the team succeed (Gido & Clements, 2009).
Finally, the project manager is responsible for controlling the project. In order to accomplish this, the project manager must receive status updates from the project team members regarding the progress on their tasks. In addition to individual member feedback, the project manager may regularly assemble the entire team to discuss how the project is proceeding. It is important for the project manager to stay apprised of the task progress in order to facilitate solutions to problems as they arise (Gido & Clements, 2009).
In order to fulfill these responsibilities, the project manager must have certain set of skills. The primary skill of the project manager is leadership. In order to accomplish a project’s objective, the project manager will actually do very little, if any, of the work. Instead, the project manager must have the leadership ability to allow project members the freedom to complete their tasks with minimal guidance. The project manager must act as the team coach, helping the individual members along, rather than as a task master (Gido & Clements, 2009). This ability to lead without being overly intrusive works well with the ability to develop individual members.
Developing people is the ability to understand the abilities of individual team members and work to develop their weaknesses. The project manager understands that expanding the skill sets of project team members makes them more valuable to the organization in the future. In some cases, team members may approach the project manager and ask for help developing certain skills. In other cases, the project manager must divine what areas need development by listening to team members. One goal of any project manager should be to have all project team members learn something new by the end of a successful project (Gido & Clements, 2009). In order to understand what skills team members need to develop, the project manager must already have well-developed communication skills.
Since the project manager does not complete any of the technical tasks that make up the project plan, it is important that she has the ability to communicate with team members and project stakeholders. Excellent oral and written communication skills ensure that all involved parties understand the status and objectives of the project. One communication skill that is often overlooked is listening. The ability to listen and comprehend the requests of stake holders and customers and the explanations of team members gives the project manager the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the personalities of the speakers (Gido & Clements, 2009). For example, a team member may be distressed at the level of responsibility he is being entrusted with. Although he may not feel comfortable saying this, the astute project manager can pick up on this discomfort and begin to guide the troubled project team member through it.
Being the manager responsible for a large project can be a stressful situation. Project managers must be able to handle the stress inherent in their position and function with it. The ability to manage stress effectively allows the project manager to remain clear-headed when problems arise. All projects are confronted with problems, whether they are created by changing requirements from the customer, or failure at the task level. The successful project manager must be able to take these setbacks in stride and keep the project team focused and moving forward. Groups tend to take on the personality of their leader, and a project manager who crumbles at the sight of adversity will have a team that cannot cope with problems (Gido & Clements, 2009).
Problem solving is another key skill for a project manager. Identifying problems early is the best way to ensure they cause the least harm. Although it is preferable for team members to identify and resolve their own problems, it is necessary for the project manager to be involved if changes to the budget or schedule will result. Additionally, it is important for the project manager to identify problems early and warn the appropriate team members. As with all facets of project management, the goal for the project manager is not to solve the problem, but to facilitate a resolution from the team (Gido & Clements, 2009).
Gido, J., & Clements, J. P. (2009). Successful project management (4th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western.