A project manager is responsible for using organizational staff & materials to produce a specified deliverable. The project manager role requires a wide variety of skills in planning, leading, scheduling, tracking progress, managing teams to produce that deliver. This set of skills is very different from managing a department or a business. Several things make a project manager’s job different.
First, the project team members are not usually the project manager’s subordinates. By that I mean they do not report to the project manager all the time. That alone makes the project manager role unique. Some of the team members may be borrowed from other parts of the organization for a limited time. For example, they may work on the project half-time for a few weeks. Other people on the team may be contractors, consultants and other specialists hired from outside the organization. Those people have a contract to produce specific deliverables for the project and they also do not report to the project manager. There are significant challenges to managing a project team.
Compounding the difficulty is the fact that in many cases, working on the project is not the team member’s full-time job. Even if working on projects is their full-time job, they may work on a dozen different projects with different project managers. So the project team often is not terribly committed to achieving the project’s goal. It requires a skilled project manager to motivate these team members. Project managers need leadership and communication skills to manage the team and build support for the project among the stakeholders.
Stakeholders are the people who will be affected by the project. Very often the stakeholders are executives in the organization who have an interest in the project because it affects their area of responsibility. Project managers must be able to persuade stakeholders to loan their people to the project and possibly supply other kinds of support. What makes it more difficult is that the project manager is usually a relatively low ranking employee and has no formal authority.
Project manager role also requires possess technical skills and knowledge that are relevant to the project. The project manager does not have to be the most knowledgeable expert on technical issues. It’s not a problem if members of the project team have more technical expertise than the project manager.
But the project manager role requires special tools and techniques of project management. These include running the planning and status report meetings, scheduling people and tasks to finish the project as soon as possible, spotting variances to the plan and optimizing the schedule to finish as soon as possible. These tools and techniques can be quite complex when applied to larger project. Becoming a project manager requires a lot of learning as well as mastering leadership and communication skills. These are the keys to a project manager’s success.