The role of the project manager is a big one. There are lots of things you need to do. So, do you fully understand the scope of your role and its responsibilities?
If your answer is not a full-throated ‘YES!’, then this is the article for you. We’ll look at three things:
Those three things turn into seven sections, when we take account of five major Project Management organizations: PMI, APM, IAPM, IPMA, and the PRINCE2 approach of Axelos. You can jump to a section that interests you here:
Here’s a compressed video version of this article.
Can’t we just get on with the job? Well, yes you can. And often that’s all that matters. But are good reasons why you may want to think about your role. And I’ll list the ones I think matter:
So, if I’ve persuaded you that this is all worth your while, let’s look at what the various big players in the profession have to say about your role. We’ll start with the biggest, globally: the Project Management Institute (PMI).
The PMI sets out
Chapter 3 is titled ‘The Role of the Project Manager’. It has a couple of short, introductory sections, and three main sections that carry the burden of the PMI’s ideas.
The PMBOK Guide pursues the Orchestra Conductor analogy through three domains:
If I say much more, I’d simply be repeating what’s in the PMBOK Guide.
At the end of one short paragraph is the one sentence that matters:
‘The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achievPMI Project Management Body of Knowledge, Sixth Edition, Chapter 3, section 3.2
ing the project objectives.’
In passing, I’ll note that what I do particularly like about this definition is that it explicitly makes the team responsible for achieving the project objectives. That’s not you, the Project Manager. Nor is it the Project Sponsor, Executive, or Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) – as in PRINCE2. I like that!
To properly understand the PMI’s perspective on role of a Project manager, this is the section to prioritize. It uses a graphical metaphor of nested circles to represent spheres of influence:
But, strangely, the text takes a different perspective. It classifies project management roles under:
I said earlier that I see competencies and roles as two different things. For me:Project Management competencies set out what you need to be able to do, to fulfil your Project Manager role properly. via @OnlinePMCourses Click To Tweet
The PMBOK uses the PMI’s excellent Talent Triangle framework to outline the competencies of a Project Manager. This is far from a detailed assessment, and for more on this, you may like to look at our feature article on the PMI Talent Triangle.
It is strongest, by far, on the leadership side of the triangle. But it does note that the PMBOK Guide’s 10 Knowledge Areas are the competencies of Technical Project Management.
The final section identifies a key role in integrating:
The section looks at three
The section (and chapter) ends with some interesting thoughts about your role with respect to the complexity of your project.
In the UK and some Commonwealth countries, it is the Association for Project Management (APM) that is the pre-eminent professional body. The APM takes a very different approach to the PMI in setting out the APM Body of Knowledge, the APMBoK.
The APMBoK has nothing to say about the role of the Project Manager, except implicitly, though its contents. It merely defines a Project Professi
‘The term used to describe those people in roles associated with the management of projects, programmes or portfolios’APM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition, Glossary
However, the APM does produce a very thorough Competence Framework, which you can download from their site, for the cost of a valid email address. Alongside it, you’ll also find a short guide to how to use it and a helpful self-assessment scoresheet.
The Competence Framework itself is excellent. It covers 27 competence areas, setting up two columns for each:
I would say that the first column forms a pretty strong project management role-description. The document also a five-level rating scale from ‘Aware’ to ‘Expert’.
The International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) publishes an excellent short guide to Project Management that is an ideal starting place for beginners. It’s called: ‘The PM Guide 2.0: The IAPM’s Traditional Project Management Baseline’. And you can download this, too, from IAPM’s website, for the cost of a valid email.
In the Guide, is a Project Manager Map, which illustrates eight Project Management roles. Rather than set out competences or detailed role descriptions, the Guide offers resources and short, useful gobbets of knowledge, to help you with the role.
The eight roles are not about the technical aspects of the role. Rather, they focus on what PMI would describe as leadership roles. They are all people-related:
The International Project Management Association (IPMA) takes a very similar approach to the APM. This is, perhaps, not surprising, The APM is a member association of the IPMA.
In a 432 page document (yes, I checked), IPMA sets out competences for individuals working in:
For each, they set out:
This is an incredibly thorough document that you can download and inspect for yourself, from the IPMA’s website, for the cost of a valid email.
Axelos, the current guardians of the PRINCE2 methodology, produce detailed methodology guides. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 (US|UK) has a lot of guidance around the role of a Project Manager in a PRINCE2 context. And, because PRINCE2 represents a robust approach to traditional plan-driven project management, this is a hugely valuable resource.
PRINCE2 is a high end certification that you should certainly consider as a possible qualification. In the manual, we learn about the Project Manager role under each of its seven themes.
The manual then collates these individual Theme-based roles in Appendix C. This sets out the roles and responsibilities of all the key players in a PRINCE2 project… And, indeed, for any project. The project management role-descriptions are pretty generic.
To give a flavor, there is a simple illustration near the start of the manual. This sets out ‘The many facets of the Project Manager role’, as:
So, with all of this review of formal documentation under your belt, what do I consider
The guidance I give is to start by stepping through he different stages of the project lifeycle.
At each stage, ask: ‘what do I need to do, as a Project Manager?’
Then think about the things that sit over the top of this, such as:
Together, thee approaches will give you a detailed description of the the role of the Project Manager.
One of over 60 checklists in ou
I have reproduced the Project Manager role-description below.
As always, we’d love to hear your
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 13 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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