Role clarification




Project managers direct the planning and execution of a project and are held personally accountable for the success of the project. Simply stated, they nurture the project to meet its objectives.

Resource managers hire, fire, make job assignments, coach, counsel, evaluate, award, promote and secure future work opportunities for direct reports. In other words, they nurture people to both reach their individual potential and to meet their commitments on projects. Everyone in an organization works for a resource manager.

The project manager champions the project. The resource manager champions people. These are oversimplified definitions, but the important thing is to understand the difference in the roles and responsibilities between these two critical leadership positions and how they can best work together for the mutual good of the enterprise.

A best-practice tool for developing the leadership skills of people in these key positions is the One-Day Project Manager/Resource Manager Leadership Workshop. Here's how it works.

The attendees are a mix of project managers and resource managers, up to 20 participants. A week or two before the workshop begins, attendees are required to identify the top three work-related scenarios that they would like addressed in the workshop. These are compiled into a single list with duplications removed. The list drives the remainder of the workshop. They include:

  • Coaching and Counseling Employee Scenario—Should the resource manager stay abreast of his employees' performance against their project plans or is that the exclusive territory of the project manager?
  • History Repeats Scenario—New projects consistently suffer from the same problems encountered on previous projects. Where's the problem? Who's primarily accountable?
  • Test Plan Scenario—A project has no test plan. Who's primarily accountable?
  • Missed Commitments Scenario—A project member consistently misses his commitments. Who's not doing their job?
  • Escalation Scenario—When two parties are unable to resolve a conflict related to a project, what role should the project manager provide in resolving the conflict? What role should a resource manager provide?

Most major problems inhibiting the success of an organization can be traced back to the leadership skills exhibited by the project managers and resource managers.

  • Management Style Scenario—Which is worse: overmanaging or undermanaging?

During the workshop, everyone provides the “correct” answer to one or more scenarios. First-time participants likely will be surprised at the number of scenarios they answer incorrectly. Coming into the workshop, many attendees assume they know what is expected in their job. One of the workshop goals, however, is to give people a renewed understanding of their roles and responsibilities as they relate to projects, people and the overall organization. These workshops teach leadership behavior and reinforce effective leadership behavior already in play.

At the end of the workshop, the scenarios and their correct answers can be documented and distributed for reference and reinforcement. In relatively new, inexperienced or weakly run organizations, the workshop should be conducted monthly. As the experience of the project managers and resource managers improves, the workshops can be scheduled quarterly.

For senior managers struggling with the issue of whether leadership can be taught, this works! Being the catalyst to adopt these workshops across an organization is a great demonstration of leadership. And the whole process proves that leadership happens at all levels—and if it isn't developed, the enterprise will not succeed.

Are you leading within your domain of responsibility, or are you waiting for others to lead you? PM


Neal Whitten, PMP, president of The Neal Whitten Group, is a speaker, trainer, consultant, mentor and author. His books include The EnterPrize Organization: Organizing Software Projects for Accountability and Success, published by PMI.




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