One Title Many Roles

You've likely heard many of the analogies before to describe the role of project managerthe "captain" of the ship, the "conductor" of the orchestra, the "coach" of the team, the "catalyst" of the engine, and so on. There's truth and insight in each of the analogies, but each can be incomplete as well. To gain better understanding of what a project manager does, let's briefly discuss each of the key roles played by the project manager:

• Planner Ensures that the project is defined properly and completely for success, all stakeholders are engaged, work effort approach is determined, required resources are available when needed, and processes are in place to properly execute and control the project.

• Organizer Using work breakdown, estimating, and scheduling techniques, determines the complete work effort for the project, the proper sequence of the work activities, when the work will be accomplished, who will do the work, and how much the work will cost.

• "Point Man" Serves as the central point-of-contact for all oral and written project communications.

• Quartermaster Ensures the project has the resources, materials, and facilities it needs when it needs it.

• Facilitator Ensures that stakeholders and team members who come from different perspectives understand each other and work together to accomplish the project goals.

• Persuader Gains agreement from the stakeholders on project definition, success criteria, and approach; manages stakeholder expectations throughout the project while managing the competing demands of time, cost, and quality; gains agreement on resource decisions and issue resolution action steps.

• Problem-Solver Utilizes root-cause analysis process experience, prior project experiences, and technical knowledge to resolve unforeseen technical issues and to take any necessary corrective actions.

• "The Umbrella" Works to shield the project team from the politics and "noise" surrounding the project, so they can stay focused and productive.

• Coach Determines and communicates the role each team member plays and the importance of that role to the project success; finds ways to motivate each team member; looks for ways to improve the skills of each team member; and provides constructive and timely feedback on individual performances.

• "The Bulldog" Performs the follow-up to ensure that commitments are maintained, issues are resolved, and action items are completed.

• Librarian Manages all information, communications, and documentation involved in the project.

• "Insurance Agent" Continuously works to identify risks and to develop responses to those risk events in advance.

• "The Police Officer" Consistently measures progress against the plan; develops corrective actions; reviews quality of both project processes and project deliverables.

• Salesman An extension of the Persuader and Coach roles, but this role is focused on "selling" the benefits of the project to the organization, serving as a "change agent," and inspiring team members to meet project goals and overcome project challenges.

While there is consensus that the disciplines and techniques used in project management can be applied in any industry, there is no consensus on whether individual project managers can be effective in a different industry.

There is no doubt that the more knowledge and experience that a project manager has in the subject matter area of the project, the more value that he/she can offer. However, depending on the size of the initiative and the team composition, a project manager with different industry experience can bring tremendous value if they are strong in the other four skill categories.

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