Project Manager Responsibilities
This article aims to explore the responsibilities of project managers for those who are not necessarily professional project managers, but those who find themselves managing projects as part of their role. That’s because many people find themselves managing projects in their day to day work. So this article gives an overview of the responsibilities when managing a project.
Project Manager Responsibilities - On Time On Budget
A successful project is often defined as one which is completed on time and on budget. This means the project is finished within the agreed deadline and the costs are within the budget expectations.
The project manager has the responsibility for making sure the project is managed well and delivers the desired result on time. Everything else the project manager does leads to this responsibility.
How many projects are completed on time? It depends on the organisation and the industry. Some say all their project are on time. Others say very few. IT project are notoriously bad for taking more time than planned.
Learning from previous projects in the organisation and in specific departments can be vital to setting realistic timelines for future projects.
In conclusion the primary responsibility of the project manager is to complete the project on time.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Project Plan
The project manager must develop a project plan for the project. This includes setting out all the steps needed from start to completion. It is a time based list of all the activities that make up the project.
The project plan can be a simple excel based document. Using a common piece of software means that most people can open it and review the contents. making access to the plan easy means that people are more likely to use it. Excel docs can be saved as read only to protect the plan.
Some projects and some people work based with a plan they can see all the time. For this reason a wall board with post it notes can work very effectively. Time is indicated on one axis and a list of the activities down the other. Post it notes are placed when the activity needs to happen and be completed.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Knowing the Detail
Project management means knowing the project inside out and upside down. Sometimes this is called keeping on top of the detail. First of all the project manager needs to know where the project is up to at any stage in its progress.
They have to know who is doing what and the progress they are making. Each of the delegated tasks has to be known by the project manager. They may not have the technical know how but they will know the content of the tasks and the issues that may be involved.
To be on top of the detail is useful for the project manager to ask themselves key questions every day.
- What is happening on the project today?
- Which people are doing which tasks today?
- What help do they need?
- Are they going to complete their tasks today?
- What support do I need to give?
- Are there any roadblocks I need to clear?
In conclusion it’s fair to say the project manager might not do any of the actual tasks in a project. But they have to know the detail of every task being done so that they can help solve problems if they occur.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Day to Day Management
One of the key project manager responsibilities is to make sure they know what is happening in the project from day to day.
The challenge with this is often that the project is not the only work the project manager is responsible for. It can easily be the case that their attention is taken by other work.
For the project manager to ensure they know what is happening with the project from day to day, successful time management is key. This often means allocating a set amount of time in each day to the project. Some days this may be as little as ten minutes just to check in with people to make sure they are on track and to hear about any challenges with tasks.
It is a good idea to allocate time in the diary every day for the project. Even if this time is not used it is in the diary and can be used if required. It is always welcome when time becomes available.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Delegation
The project manager is usually not expected to carry out all the tasks in a project. For this reason delegation is essential.
Delegation means deciding who is going to do each task. It means discussing the task with them, answering questions, providing support and being available throughout the task.
There are various models available to help decide who to allocate a task to and how to ado this. For example the personality and work style of the person is considered to see how well this matches with the task required. Another model reviews the person’s experience, capability and willingness to do the specific task.
Another model looks at the project managers preferred delegation style. The four are; telling, selling, coaching and giving. Each style is appropriate with a certain type of task and person being delegated to.
We can see therefore that delegation is a key part of the job of being a project manager. It is a skill in itself which needs review and practice.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Milestone Setting
It is the project manager’s responsibility to write down the milestones for a project. A milestone is a big step in the progress of a project. Milestones form part of the planning process.
There may be just two or three, or any number of these big stages in a project. They may well linked to major budget spending. They could be linked to different stages in the project, like different types of activity.
These milestones make the project easier to plan and understand. By breaking the project down into smaller steps the total activity seems more manageable.
For example a new building could have the following milestones:
- Architects’ design plans.
- Local authority planning approval.
- Building plans from architect.
- Clear site.
- Lay foundations.
- Construct walls & floors.
- Complete roof.
- Install windows and doors to make structure water tight.
- Install electricity and water to building.
- Complete internal walls with timber and plasterboard.
- Finish electrics.
- Floor and wall finishes with tile and paint.
In this examples we have 12 major milestones and there could easily be more. Underneath each one of these milestones are a number of tasks. And again each tasks could have a number of sub-tasks.
So in conclusion milestone setting is one of the key project manager responsibilities, and one which needs careful thought and planning.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Inter-dependencies
An inter-dependency occurs when one task cannot be started until another one is complete. So for example, a cake decorator cannot begin to decorate the cake until the baker makes the cake.
The project manager needs to identify all the inter-dependencies in the project and communicate these to those who are involved. Both the person who has to do the first task and who can only start their task when this is complete. Regular progress updates are essential for everyone to plan their time efficiently.
If it appears a task may not be completed on time, the project manager may decide to allocate more resource, change the task or alter things in other ways.
In conclusion, managing work between different people in this way is a key responsibility of the successful project manager.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Milestone Completion
Project manager responsibilities include making sure milestone are completed. This means keeping track of progress, identifying any issues and resolving problems as they arise.
Making sure the project is delivered on time is ensured by concentrating on each the milestones that make up the project. The project manager needs to look at each milestone and asses how well it is doing against the delivery date.
Just because a person says they have allocated time for a task does not means that time won’t come under pressure from other tasks or projects. the project manager needs to look out for these situations and intervene when required.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Manage the Budget
Most projects have some sort of financial aspect. This may be taken care of by a senior manager or project director. If not it is one of the key project manager responsibilities to manage the budget.
So this means agreeing an overall total cost for the project. It also means breaking that budget down into smaller sections for each part of the project.
As the project progresses the project manager needs to be aware of how the actual budget compares to the planned budget.
Project Manager Responsibilities - Managing Upwards
An important responsibility for project managers is to manage upwards. Managing upwards means making sure the project has the right support from levels of manager above that of the project manager. It means those senior people deliver on their promises.
Managing upwards can also involve defending the project if it gets threatened by senior managers. This may be due to a change in priorities, or personnel changes, or budget pressures. The project manager needs to ensure senior manager know and understand the benefits of the project before they make decisions on the project.
Managing upwards can also include defending the resources required to deliver the project, from being taken for other activities. Making sure people allocated for the project stay on the project can be vital.
So in conclusion managing upwards is another key part of the role of the project manager, and one that can be easily overlooked.
Free Project Management Resources
If you would like to more on project manager responsibilities we have a free project management sdf book called Tiger-Taming for Beginners. We also have a Free Project Management Tip Sheet.