Duties of the effective project manager


by Neal Whitten, PMP, Contributing Editor

TRULY EFFECTIVE PROJECT MANAGERS are not easy to find. Although many people have the potential to become successful project managers, a person must first understand the duties of a project manager before he or she can be sufficiently effective in that role.

The project manager has the single most important position on a project and has the overall responsibility for its success. This position comes with a tremendous responsibility, accountability, ownership and authority.

Because of the criticality of this role, project managers must be carefully selected, trained, and nurtured to give them every opportunity to be successful. Let's look at a short list of the more significant duties of a project manager.

Has Full Responsibility and Accountability for the Project. The project manager, fully accountable for the outcome of the project, is the glue that holds the project together. The project manager leads the project with passion, as if it was his or her own business.

Applies Lessons Learned From Recent Projects. The project manager studies the lessons learned from prior projects and applies the most important lessons to the new project.

Defines Project Roles and Responsibilities. The project manager is ultimately responsible for ensuring that project members understand what is expected of them and what they should expect from one another.

Leads the Project Planning Activities. The project manager directs the creation, approval, and ongoing change control of the project plan.

“Project manager” is a job for those who want to make a difference.

Performs Project Tracking. The No. 1 reason for tracking a project is to discover potential problems before they occur. The project manager applies this proactive approach in routinely tracking the project members’ progress against their project commitments.


Neal Whitten, PMP, president of The Neal Whitten Group (www.nealwhittengroup.com), is a speaker, trainer, consultant and author. His books include Becoming an Indispensable Employee in a Disposable World. Comments on this column should be directed to [email protected].

Adopts Project Management Best Practices. The project manager, not management, is responsible for defining, teaching, and enforcing the use of good project management practices.

Manages to Project Priorities; Performs Risk Management. The project manager understands that the No. 1 problem on all projects is that the most important problems are not being worked to a swift closure; therefore, most of the project manager's time each day is dedicated to addressing the project's top three-to-five priorities.

Communicates Project Status Upward and to the Client. No significant project status leaves the boundaries of the project without project manager approval.

Drives Decision-Making to Lowest Level Possible. The project manager drives ownership of decisions to the level where the accountability of the decision must lie. A key result is that project members, with proper training and coaching, will almost always rise to the expectations placed on them.

Promotes Client Involvement. The project manager recognizes that project success is directly related to satisfying the client; therefore, client involvement is essential to ensure that the right product is built.

Encourages and Supports Escalations. The project manager establishes a project culture where escalations to resolve “stagnant” problems are viewed as good business and not viewed as being personal.

Enforces Effective Change Control. The project manager ensures that scope creep, communications, and quality are carefully managed.

Mentors Project Members. The project manager is a teacher and a helper.

Promotes Good Working Relationships. The project manager serves as a role model in promoting good working relationships across a project.

Makes Things Happen. You don't have to be the smartest, most knowledgeable person on the project to be the project manager. You do, however, have to have the knowledge, skills and experience to be able to recognize when problems surface or potential problems are looming. You must be able to articulate those problems, bring the right people together to solve those problems and know when the problem has been properly addressed and closed—all this with the proper sense of urgency that the problem requires. images

PM Network September 1999



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