The project manager leads the project team. Their role and level of authority will vary depending upon the project organizational structure.
When to use
Every project needs to have someone in charge. When a project is initiated one of the first steps the stakeholders and sponsor should take is to appoint a project manager. If you are the project manager you should set clear expectations about your role and level of authority. This is largely dependent upon the project organizational structure.
Project Manager: “The person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives.” PMBOK® Guide
A project manager is the primary person responsible for ensuring the project management processes are followed. They need to determine the level of depth and rigor that should be applied with each process. They are normally the primary interface with the stakeholders. They are normally leading the project team.
Project Manager Competencies
The according to the PMBOK® Guide, project manager competencies are:
- “Knowledge – Refers to what the project manager knows about project management.
- Performance – Refers to what the project manager is able to do or accomplish while applying his or her project management knowledge.
- Personal – Refers to how the project manager behaves when performing the project or related activity. Personal effectiveness encompasses attitudes, core personality characteristics, and leadership which provides the ability to guide the project team while achieving project objectives and balancing the project constraints.”
As you can see from the list, the project manager role is not a passive role. They are the subject matter expert for project management on the project team. They apply this expertise to project activities. They do this while leading the project team. It is an action-oriented person with both technical skills and people skills.
Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013, Page 17 and Glossary definition, Page 555.
The project manager role is more than just applying technical project management knowledge and skills to project activities, it includes a strong dose or leadership. On many (most?) projects the project manager is not the direct supervisor of all project team members. They cannot direct someone to do a project task and fire them if they don’t. Instead the project leader must build the trust and confidence of project team members and the stakeholders. This requires the ability to apply inter-personal skills effectively.
Role and Authority
One of the most difficult elements of a project manager’s position is to establish clear understanding of the project manager role and authority. The table below, taken from the PMBOK® Guide, shows how this changes based upon the organizational structure of the business. Obviously, the more projectized the organization, the stronger the role of the project manager. However, that often also leads to significant inefficiencies in other parts of the business. I have worked with companies in all of these five organization structures. I have seen project managers be successful in all of them and fail in all of them. The structure does not determine project success, it is still the people. Understand your structure and practice good project management within those constraints.
The terms “weak,” “balanced,” and “strong” in the matrix column do not refer to the personal characteristics of the project manager. Rather they refer to the project management function or discipline as compared to the other business functions.
Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013, Table 2-1, Page 22. PMBOK is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
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