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What You Need to Know about the Project Manager Job Description

Project Manager Job Description

The Project Manager job description is a long one.

The role of a Project Manager can change from organization to organization. It can even change from project to project. But there are elements to your job description that are common across most Project Manager roles.

So, in this article, we’ll break down the Project Manager role description in a logical way, and link to resources that will help you carry out each element effectively.

The Structure of this Article

Project Manager Job Description

The structure of this article is simple. And it will draw from the structure of the approach to Project Management in our core Project Management training programs.

  1. The Role of a Project Manager at each Step in Your Project
    I take you through the project manager job description step-by-step, following my 8-step project process. 
  2. Strategic Elements of the Project Manager Job Description
    The responsibilities of a Project manager extend beyond your project. So, we’ll look at this aspect of your job description.
  3. The Project Manager Leadership Role
    As a Project Manager, you also need to be a leader – even if it doesn’t say so explicitly in your formal job description.

The Role of a Project Manager

This article is a companion to an earlier article: ‘Do You Understand the Role of the Project Manager?’

In that article, we looked at:

  • Why the role of a Project manager is important
  • What the various Project Management organizations have to say about the role. We look at:
    • What the Project Management Institute (PMI) PMBOK Guide has to say
    • How the Association for Project Management (APM) Body of Knowledge (APMBoK) tackles the topic
    • The International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) Project Manager Map
    • How the International Project Management Association (IPMA) Defines the Role
    • The PRINCE2 Approach to the Project Manager Role
  • A simple checklist of Project Manager roles

So, this article picks up where the last one left off. It will go add a lot of detail to the final section. And, it will give you all of the elements of a Project Manager job description.

But, if you have not read it, do take a look at that article too.

TL;DR – A Video Version of the Project Manager Job Description

If you prefer, we have a video version of this article.

The Project Manager Job Description at each Step in Your Project

First, we’ll look at all the Project Manager job description through the lens of the project life cycle… and the project process. I will use my 8-step project model…

Step 1: What do you want?
Project Definition

You need to understand and document the goal, objectives, and scope of your project. And then, you must define the precise scope and specific deliverables required.

At this stage, you will document your key deliverables with only outline specifications – such as quality standards they must comply with.

Check Out Our Resources…

Our ‘PM in Under 5 videos that answer the question, ‘What is…

Our Feature Articles that cover these topics in-depth:

Other resources:

The Role of Defining Your Project

A simple approach to Project Definition is to work through our One-Page Project Definition Checklist.

For our downloadable One-page Project Definition and the other three videos in the series, check out the Project Management Fundamentals course in our Free Academy of Project Management.

Step 2: Does it Stack up?
Business Case and Governance

A project must deliver good value. So, the benefits of its deliverables and their outcomes need to outweigh the costs. To demonstrate this, your role includes delivering key project documentation such as:

  • Project Definition Document (see step 1)
  • Business Case
  • Benefits Management Plan
  • Budget
  • Project Plan – outline version at this stage
  • Issue and Risk logs

Step 3: Who Cares?
Stakeholder Engagement

Engaging with your stakeholders, listening to their concerns, and influencing their actions are an essential part of any Project Manager’s job description…

Stakeholder Engagement - Mike Clayton

To support this, you need to create relevant documents and tools, that may include:

  • Stakeholder Engagement Plan
  • Communications Plan

Step 4: How will you get what you want?
Planning & Quality Management

The core of your job description at this stage is to design and develop your:

  • Project Plans
  • Stage Plans
  • Contingency Plans
    and, where necessary…
  • Exception Plans to deal with exceptional circumstances.

These will no longer be outline plans like those of the Delivery Stage. But neither will you ever consider them final. They will go into version control.

At the same time, you also need to agree on the technical and quality aspects of the project with the appropriate Project Board members. This will lead you to prepare:

  • A detailed schedule of all deliverables
  • Specifications for each deliverable

Another key part of the project manager job description at this stage is to evaluate and recommend the methods, tools, and templates that will best support your project. This may involve specifying, procuring, and commissioning software, such as a Project Management Information System (PMIS).

We will talk about people in the next step, but here, you need to think about the material resources you will need. You’ll need to:

  • Specify them
  • Procure them (which may involve managing a competitive tender process)
  • Schedule delivery and store them

Non-human resources include:

  • Assets (buildings and workspace)
  • Equipment, plant, and tools
  • Components
  • Raw materials

Step 5: Who will help?
Team Management and Co-ordination

The other essential resource is people. So, you must identify the key people you’ll need for the delivery of the project. And you must bring these people together to form a project team.

Where your team will need to include consultants or contractors, your project manager job description will also include the tendering and procurement processes.

Once you have secured your team, you’ll need to:

  • Allocate tasks to team members
  • Ensure they are completed within the required timeframe and to the required quality

And a vital part of your role is to maintain team morale and develop the people in your team. Run regular project team meetings that define the project, plan its delivery, and then review progress, to:

  • Identify next steps
  • Solve problems
  • Learn lessons

Step 6: What if it goes wrong?
Risk Management

Projects are inherently uncertain. So, a big part of any Project Manager job description is to take responsibility for risk and issue management.

This is a sizeable specialty in its own right. And, if your project is large, you may be lucky enough to have a dedicated risk manager on your team. Yet, even so, this responsibility remains yours – risks and issues can affect the very viability of your project!

Step 7: How is it going?
Monitoring and Control

The beating heart of your project, during its delivery stage, is the Monitor and Control Cycle (or Loop). So, at this stage, a large part of your job description will be to manage:

  • The day-to-day running of the project, monitoring and controlling performance, taking corrective action when necessary, within delegated authority.
  • The project budget.
  • Project controls like:
    • version control
    • configuration management
    • risk and issue management
    • change control
  • Production of regular progress reports that show progress against the current plan along with the key project issues, risk and dependencies, and maintaining a complete, auditable record of decisions.
  • Scheduling and attendance of Project Board meetings, and providing progress updates.

Step 8: How did it go?
Project Close

Your responsibilities as a Project Manager do not end, until you have shut down your project in an orderly manner. As a minimum, you need to:

  • Complete all actions set out in the Project Closure Checklist.
  • Ensure that lessons learned are identified and recorded.

Check Out Our Resources…

Start with ‘Project Closure: Your Complete Guide to How to Close-down Your Project‘.

A Summary of Closing Your Project

For our downloadable One-page Project Definition and the other three videos in the series, check out the Project Management Fundamentals course in our Free Academy of Project Management.

Strategic Elements of the Project Manager Job Description

Projects do not exist in a vacuum. Even in a small organization, there will be other initiatives going on, as well as business-as-usual (BAU). Liaise with related projects to ensure that work is not overlooked or duplicated, and that resource or schedule inter-dependencies are managed.

Check Out Our Resources…

Our ‘PM in Under 5 videos that answer the question, ‘What is…

The Project Manager Leadership Role

You have a responsibility to manage the people on your project, as well as managing your project. And your role is to lead, as well as to manage. For example:

  • Apply and disseminate best practices
  • Effective team communication
  • Team development
  • Motivate individuals and your team as a whole
  • Coaching, training, support, and development of individual

Here’s a Quirky Take on the Roles of a Project Manager

In conclusion, I’d like to end this round-up, with a short video. In it, I draw similarities between the roles of a Project Manager and a pilot. I hope you’ll find it thought-provoking.

What are Your Thoughts about the Project Manager Job Description

Please share your thoughts below, and I’ll respond to every comment.

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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