PMP Training: The Role of The Project Manager

PMP® Exam Prep: The Role of The Project Manager

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"Project Manager (PM). The person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives."

This definition is taken from the Glossary of Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) - Sixth Edition, Project Management Institute Inc., 2017.

This lesson focuses on us, the project manager. We begin with a general overview and also give you the formal definition. Then we see how and where the PM fits into the overall organization and how we are 'the movers and shakers' of any organization because the projects we lead, transform the strategic ideas into tactical realities.

We also spend time talking about the importance of the project manager in carrying out effective communications, which is a large part of the project manager’s job. And We close by talking about the commitment a project manager must have to the profession.

Until Next Time,

Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM
President, OSP International LLC


Please note that the transcript is provided for promotional purposes only. Transcripts are not provided for other PrepCast lessons.

[00:00] [Introduction]

Hello, and welcome to this free lesson from The Project Management PrepCast™. I am Cornelius Fichtner and I am the lead instructor. Thank you for your interest in our Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam training course.

The PM PrepCast™ gives you the standout factor that you need to succeed on your PMP® exam and makes the skills, knowledge, tools and techniques required for passing seem like second nature. You learn by watching video-based lessons to study what you need for your exam. You get over 150 lessons that all have one goal.

We want you to not only understand but master the concepts. In this way your in depth knowledge of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) is going to be a substantial advantage on your exam day.

So smile! You’ve got this. Find out more at www.pm-prepcast.com.

And now, on with the show.

01:03] Lesson Overview

Hello and welcome to The Project Management PrepCast™ where we have enabled over 45,000 project managers to study for their certification. I am instructor, Cornelius Fichtner.

In this lesson, you’ll get an overview of the role of the project manager. Just to make sure that we are clear on the formal role, we cover the definition of a project manager and discuss how that role fits within the organization.

We also spend time talking about the importance of the project manager in carrying out effective communication, which is a large part of what we project managers do. We close by talking about the commitment a project manager must have to the profession. This lesson is brief but important.

[01:49] Follow Along on Pages: 51-56 and 550-552

If you would like to follow along in the PMBOK® Guide, please turn to pages 51 through 56. You can also find some useful information on stakeholders and project managers in part two of the guide in the standard for project management, which are on pages 550 through 552.

[02:09] Project Manager (PM)

The best place to start is with the definition. A project manager or PM is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives. That is who we are trying to be if only it were that easy.

[02:30] Projects as a Business

When you read the PMBOK® Guide, you see that it likens the role of the project manager to a conductor of an orchestra. That’s a very good analogy but I prefer to bring it a little bit closer to home. Instead of an orchestra, I prefer the analogy of a project manager running a business where you, the project manager, are the CEO or Chief Executive Officer.

A project is like a mini business in many ways. It has tasks that need to be done and things it must deliver to customers and end-users. It must buy or lease resources. It needs material, data, information or other resources and to pay people to do the work.

As projects build the deliverables, the process looks similar to an operations model. Projects must conform to regulations and standards. External governmental and standard bodies control how the products are built and how they perform in both situations. And projects have financial constraints that must be met in order to be successful.

The one critical difference between businesses and projects is that projects must end. That is part of the definition of a project. Most businesses want to do just the opposite and continue to operate and grow.

[03:52] Answerable to…

Looking more closely at the analogy, we find more similarities. If we place the CEO on the left and the project manager on the right to see how they are answerable to, what do you we would find?

Well CEOs are answerable to a number of groups; this includes investors, stockholders, board of directors, customers and owners or some combination of all of these. Project managers are answerable to sponsors, stakeholders, customers and end-users, and maybe all of these parties at the same time. That sounds pretty similar.

[04:26] Responsible for…

What about their responsibilities? CEOs are responsible for leading a company and are ultimately responsible for the company’s performance. The CEO is responsible for getting the right employees ensuring they get paid, have the right tools to do their job and that employees have direction.

In a business, CEOs need to ensure the company meets profit goals and in non profit organizations, they need to ensure that finances are in balance. CEOs need to coordinate sales, marketing, operations, finance, procurement, customers and anyone else that deals with the company. They need to provide a safe and cooperative work environment. Ultimately, the business delivers some form of product or service to customers and the CEO has to stand behind that.

On the other side, project managers have responsibilities of leading a project or two or three or more. It’s very common for project managers to run multiple projects in tandem. Project managers have to identify the right team members. They have to negotiate to get these team members allocated to the project and assigned to tasks. Project managers should ensure that the team is equipped with the right tools and have clear direction. Project managers are not always profit-driven but all need to stay within the budget and make sure stakeholders are happy.

Project managers have to coordinate sponsors, the project team, finance, procurement, customers, end-users and anyone else that deals with the project. They must also provide a safe and cooperative work environment and of course a project has deliverables in the form of products, services, results or some combination of those items. Well when we compare each item side by side, CEOs and project managers sound very similar in terms of responsibilities too.

[06:27] Knowledgeable of…

What about the knowledge that these roles needs? There should be some differences because after all, a CEO runs an entire business. So on the CEO side, we see that CEOs need to have business acumen and know how to run a business. They need to know their business domain whether it’s telephony, construction, automotive, insurance and the like. But they do not need to know how to do most of the jobs that the employees do. For instance, they may never have sold or built the cellphone. They need to be leaders and have the traits of a leader.

On the other hand, what does a project manager need to know? Project managers need to know how to run and manage a project. No surprise there. That is probably a large part of the reason that you are taking this course. Project managers also need to understand the business domain of the project. That may be more than what it looks like on the surface. A project manager delivering an automated manufacturing system to semiconductor fabs needs to understand equipment automation and semiconductor manufacturing. He does not need to know how to do the work but he needs to be fluent with the common risks and issues for both just like a CEO. Project managers also have to be leaders. They must have the traits of a successful leader. Unlike a CEO however, the project manager has little or no authority.

[07:54] Actions…

What about actions? They ought to be a lot different, right? CEOs need to create a vision for the company that inspires people to show up to the office and to do their best and work to make the company successful. They need to lead, inspire and motivate people. They also have to manage by giving direction and telling people what to do. And CEOs need to be problem-solvers, make decisions and resolve conflicts.

When we turn to project managers, we see that they create a vision for achieving the project goals that inspires stakeholders and the project team to do their best work to make the project successful. They need to lead, inspire and motivate the people working for them and the stakeholders that are affected by the project. They need to do that without having much, if any, authority. Of course as the name implies, project managers have to do a lot more management tasks than executives who are more leadership-focused. They have to manage scope, schedule, budgets and risks often in more detail than a CEO.

Project managers are often taskmasters ensuring people are doing the right work the right way. And project managers are on the frontline of problem solving, decision-making and conflict resolution. Although the conductor analogy has merit based on the similarities in the CEO and project managers’ responsibilities, knowledge and actions, the CEO analogy resonates very well for me.

[09:30] Differences

But there are also many things a CEO does that project managers do not do. There are two that make an enormous difference. Most CEOs have a commitment to the investors and stakeholders to grow the business. This may be measurable in revenue, profit, projects completed or customer-based. The goal, however, is usually growth.

The second item, I already mentioned but it’s worth repeating because of its importance and that’s that businesses usually want to last forever. Their plans are not to go out of business. The goals of a project manager differ from those of a CEO. Although project managers may help land new business, their goal is to limit the growth of the project and to ensure that the project completes its deliverables. Project managers want to achieve project objectives and complete tasks so they can ultimately complete and close the project. Unlike a business, all projects have a planned ending. Following that plan is considered in most cases a success!

[10:37] Project Manager’s Connections

To do this, a project manager has to be well connected. If you were to map out the connections a project manager needs to do this work, it would look a lot like those of a CEO too. The project manager manages and leads the project team to meet the project objectives and stakeholder expectations. And quite often, the latter part of the statement is the struggle. There are dozens maybe thousands of stakeholders that you may need to deal with. The project team may be just a few dozen people.

You need to work with your project sponsor and help her see solutions where there only appear to be problems. It takes a leader to guide your customer towards most cost-effective solutions that meet their business needs. You need to work with and lead suppliers to a vision that is beneficial to them. You need to lead up and steer your organization’s executives to the vision of your project plan to make them a reality.

Leaders also ensure that end-users adapt and use the project’s output. You should also work with government agencies and regulators to see a vision of a better way. You need to coordinate with other projects that you may share deliverables or resources with as well. Resource managers who test your negotiating skill for a person’s time and how much they cost. If one exists, you need to get the PMO to provide the support you need. There could be steering committees that approve or give direction for your project that you need to work with. And you may have to deal with a number of project, program or portfolio managers to get your project done. Your success is based on your ability to lead, communicate and work with others.

[12:28] Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

There is a saying that a project manager has only three priorities --- communication, communication and communication. Not just once but it’s ongoing. It should not be a deluge since it is about quality not just quantity.

I know a guy, he does project rescue and he once taught me that he was on a project that failed where the project manager swore up and down that he have communicated hundreds of times with everyone on the project. But when my friend talked to the stakeholders, they had a different story. Most said the project manager had talked to them once, at most twice.

When my friend dug into it a little bit further, he found out that both stories were right. The project manager did have hundreds of meetings but there were so many stakeholders that it took hundreds of meetings to talk to them all just once. When stakeholders do complain about over-communication, they usually mean that you may be conveying the wrong kind of information.

For example, providing overly detailed information to executives is considered improper communication when in general they need summary information and potential solutions to an issue so that they can make decisions.

[13:49] Communications Management

The key is properly tailored communications. Communication comes in many forms. Some people like to read reports. Some like graphs. Others want to hear you talk about the status. So you need to be prepared to do all of them. It could be that people want the data pushed to them and others may allot time to go to a website and pull the information. The more ways that your provide information, the better your chances that people comprehend the message. However, you need to have a communications management plan that everyone understands and you need to be consistent about providing the information.

The information needs to be in a format that the recipient can use. Executives like summaries and action items while problem-solvers need details. This could mean that you need multiple dashboards classified by stakeholder.

Your message needs to be concise and clear. Information with spurious data thrown in can be frustrating and misleading. Your communication must be unbiased. Report both the positive and negative. Slanting your communication either way misleads people on the status of your project.

You should make it clear how people should react and respond. Executives should be clearly told when they need to make decisions that communication should provide a list of options with their pros and cons. If people have questions, they should know who and how to ask. However, communication is not always formal. Often informal networks are very valuable in getting the right message to the proper person who can then take action. More than once, I have used a liaison with a connection to an executive to deliver a message in a manner that gets me the results I need. Networks are critical.

[15:45] Project Manager in an Organization

Those brought interactions for the project manager cost more than just communication needs. The interrelatedness of projects with all these groups means that you need to monitor the demands of the same resources on the project and across the organization.

People in operations say have worked they need to get done. Suddenly your project pops up along with one or two other projects. The folks in operations need to find time to help. I bet that before any of these projects came around, these resources were already working a full day. How can they get the time in to help you?

Funding priorities can shift. Money is always an issue. Any number of corporate parameters can shift such as revenue, sales, margins, investors, priorities and your project changes. You must always remember that your project is not an island. In fact, there are often dependencies between projects. You may be dependent on the other project managers completing their deliverables to complete yours.

For example, a friend managed a project to deploy software at a brand new, yet-to-build facility. Their deployment schedule either had to accelerate or stall depending on the construction of the facility. All this means that your project goals and objectives need to be aligned with the organization’s ever-changing goals and objectives. As pointed out the previous example, the goal of the project was not to get done early unless the construction was ahead of schedule.

[17:20] Advancing Project Management

Project managers may work towards greater and more effective application of project management principles. As a project manager, you may look towards improving interactions with sponsors, managers and other stakeholders to ensure that people understand the value of project management and develop everyone’s competency and capability including your own.

This requires continually seeking ways to increase and improve knowledge transfer by capturing explicit knowledge and working with others to share tacit knowledge. These actions alone promote the use of project management as a tool to address needs and resolve issues in the business. Lastly, you need to work to advance the effectiveness of a project or program management office if one exists.

[18:10] Reporting Structure

You may find yourself in two main structures as a project manager. If your organization has a functional structure, you may be reporting to a functional manager. But if the organization is project-oriented, runs a lot of projects, there may be a PMO that all project managers report into. There are less used structures though where project managers report into a sponsor or program group, thus, is as temporary as the project itself.

[18:40] Your Education & Staying Current

Education is essential to keep your skills current. In the past, business and technology did not change nearly as quickly as it does today. One did not need to constantly absorb massive amounts of data. Today, new product and technology development is so rapid that either could be obsolete before your project is done.

Businesses see new markets and exploit niches at lightning speed. You do not have time to become an expert in any one before you need to move on to the next.

You need to learn the standards that affect your industries - project management, quality, information security, accounting and the like to ease our load in one area so that you can focus on more troubled areas.

Along with standards come the support tools to automate processes and improve efficiency. Just as business and technology changes, economic forces affect our business and therefore your projects. Understanding housing bubbles, electronics manufacturing cycles and incoming regulations that affect sales help you judge the pressures on your project.

You need to also track advances and trends in project management as they can point to potential process improvement that can enhance sustainability and efficiency of your projects.

[20:06] Professional Education

Education is a two-way street and as a project manager, you should be looking for ways of educating other project managers and professionals on what you have learned. This goes beyond what you are doing as part of your job and may even go beyond your industry or area of expertise.

You should be looking to help advance project management by working at local, national and global levels. It could be working with students in high school doing their senior project, attending a roundtable discussion or presenting a successful technique at a national conference.

You should participate in training and continuing education in project management, related fields like construction management, software development, organization change management and the like, and even other profession such as law, aerospace, healthcare, government, non-profit and so on.

[21:01] Review Question

Before we go, a review question is in order. Here it is: Which of the following is not a function of the project manager? Is it: (a) Communicating with stakeholders? (b) Lengthening the duration of the project as much as possible? (c) Educating others on project management? Or is it (d) Learning about other disciplines?

I am sure you’ve already spotted the correct answer but I will give you the usual 10 seconds anyway to think about it. If you need more time, please do press ‘pause’.

And yes, if you selected B as the correct answer here, lengthening the duration of the project as much as possible, you are absolutely correct. Although a project manager may need to lengthen the project to accommodate a change or they might do some action to maximize profit, their goal is to get the project done as soon as reasonably possible and not to lengthen its duration as much as possible.

[22:15] Takeaways

To close this lesson, we have our takeaways and in this case, some are so huge, you are going to need special equipment to draw them away.

Project managers may need to cooperate with and coordinate numerous stakeholders with different roles, positions and capabilities inside and outside the organizations. Project managers must be proficient and excellent communicators and sculpt their message to the intended recipient.

On any given project, the reach and connectedness of the project manager can be into almost any part of the organization. A project manager’s education is never ending. It reaches beyond project management and needs to encompass business education, domain knowledge and education on disciplines outside project management.

That concludes the lesson on the role of the project manager. An exciting role with infinite possibilities that is central to how businesses advance.

Until next time.


[End of presentation]

Please note that the transcript is provided for promotional purposes only. Transcripts are not provided for other PrepCast lessons.

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