Project Manager responsibilities are numerous.
Project Management Institute encompasses a considerable list of roles and responsibilities. Nevertheless, you might not encounter them all in your company.
So, what should be the baseline for you in your current organization and on your given project?
In this article, I will clarify the roles and responsibilities of a PM.
Moreover, I will show you the “Must Have” ones. And how to identify other essential activities you need to do.
But let’s start with the following:
What is the Role of a Project Manager?
Again, PMI has its own definition:
The project manager is is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives.
– PMBOK Guide sixth edition
This definition gives you a lot of freedom.
There is nothing about specific processes, knowledge, or skills.
There is nothing about the size and complexity of a project.
It doesn’t specify required expertise for a PM.
However, did you noticed that?
A project manager is a leader first of all!
OK, one more thing!
Difference Between Roles and a Responsibilities
Usually, people mix up roles and responsibilities of a project manager together.
It brings too much uncertainty.
Let’s draw a line between the two:
A Role is a function or a model of behavior that you must follow. For example, a role of proactive problem solver.
A Responsibility is something that it is your job or duty to deal with. For example, a responsibility to report progress to project stakeholders.
Now, let’s review the Roles of a Project Manager.
5 Roles of a Project Manager
You may have additional roles in your current organization.
However, these five are typical for many projects.
1. The Primary Role of Project Manager is Integrator
Integration management is the crucial role of a project manager.
Do not expect someone will produce results, data, and information that will seamlessly pass through the whole project management process.
There are several levels of integration on a project:
- Integration on Objective Level
- Integration on Processes and Tools Level
- Integration on Stakeholders Level
- Integration on Environment Level
You need to be an integrator on all of them to finish a project successfully.
I have a separate post on Integration Management. So, if you don’t feel confident about this role do read the following article:
2. Project Manager Role of a Facilitator
Put an engineer, a designer, a quality assurance engineer, and a business analyst in one room.
Then ask them to produce a solution for your project.
I’m 95% sure that they will not come up with any reasonable options.
Give them a little direction, keep them to the topic and aligned with the project goals and constraints.
Suddenly it is a treasure box with useful ideas and constructive solutions!
Experts have to be facilitated.
Without the least hidden motive, they will provide you with the best solution they are capable of.
However, it will be out of the context and in a vacuum.
It is your role to take the initiative and stream their expert knowledge towards your goals in the best way possible.
3. Main Point of Communication is a Duty of a PM
Stakeholders are busy people. Some of them are great technical experts in their field of knowledge. Some of them are successful businessmen.
But none of them knows everything.
Most probably they initiated your project because they do not have the time or knowledge to produce required product, service, or result.
They may also not know anything about project management, the nature of the project, processes, or best practices.
So, your primary role is to become a single point of communication.
You have to be able to communicate project status clearly, problems, and your questions in words that customers understand.
On the other hand, you need to interpret customer’s requirements, fears, and concerns.
Then, formulate and communicate them to the team in terms that they understand.
4. Proactive Problem Solver
Problems that do not fall under anyone’s responsibilities appear on a project every day.
And it is not an exaggeration.
Some problems will be on responsibility boundaries; some will be entirely new.
In most cases, people will think that someone else should handle it.
The truth is, there is only YOU who is intentionally biased to solve problems. You can’t delegate it to others.
You will have to correct mistakes of others and more often than not you will be accountable for them.
Moreover, you must be proactive, and you need to deal with problems before they appear.
It is a necessity. All in all, you want to be a leader for your team, not only the manager.
Your efficiency at solving problems is contagious.
At some point, your team will begin to solve problems on their own. Even more efficiently than you ever will.
5. Ultimate Responsibility Bearer
There are situations when a project manager subordinates to others. He must get approvals before making important decisions. He may not have direct control of some resources.
Moreover, there are a lot of controlling departments monitoring the project.
In such environment, it is tempting to share responsibility. Spreading it thin among all parties.
Nevertheless, be aware that you will still be responsible for the outcome of the project at the end of the day.
There are so few circumstances that can excuse a project manager for failing a project.
(I would not even bother thinking about them.)
A contractor provided a deliverable of poor quality, and the project missed a deadline.
You are to be blamed.
A team member doesn’t perform well.
It is your problem.
A functional manager forced you to take inexperienced or not suitable specialist.
That is your problem as well.
It will not be a valid excuse if a project fails.
The price of greatness is responsibility.
– Winston S. Churchill
In the long run, I would not even name this a responsibility. It is more of a nature of the profession.
If you think of your project like your own business.
If you think of yourself as a president of this business.
And if you are acting like you are spending your own money.
You will be just fine.
Additional Role of a Project Manager – Scrum Master
It is a common practice when a PM assumes additional roles that are present in the given industry.
Combination of a Project Manager and a Scrum Master. Or a mix of Project and Product Managers. Just as an example.
In such cases, you act as a PM, but also, you need to follow prescribed activities of the framework. Or add up processes from other knowledge domains.
That is OK. But…
I don’t know all possible additional roles. Nevertheless, the recommendation is only one:
“Don’t let additional roles to be an excuse not to do proper project management.”
I would recommend reading this article to understand the possible challenges:
Agile Project Management With Scrum or Kanban (2018 Guide)
Project Manager Responsibilities
Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting generic staff below. These are the concepts of taking responsibilities in the project management process.
Project Management approach dictates the responsibilities of a Project Manager.
It means that a PM should follow prescribed policies, processes and requirements in the first place.
Then, you need to develop or adapt the approach to the needs of the given project.
You need to build on the environment you are working in.
Let’s decompose it further:
Responsible for Defining Project Goals
First of all, you must identify the project goals.
Recheck the definition:
“…to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives.”
Why is it your responsibility, not client’s?
When a sponsor or client initiates a project you, as a project manager, get an authority to spend the allocated resources.
However, you are ethically bound to spend those resources in the best way possible to achieve the goals.
But there is more:
Your stakeholders might not have a clear understanding or knowledge of the project goal.
And you know this:
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Seneca
So, it will be tough to achieve success criteria and make your stakeholders happy.
If anything, I suggest you read my article on Project Charter and its benefits.
You may not have a Project Charter as a formal document to capture project goals.
Nevertheless, you do have a responsibility to identify the goals of a project.
The Responsibility of Project Manager for Project Management Plan
I can rephrase this one:
“You are responsible for increasing Project’s chances for success.”
If you did your previous responsibility diligently:
- You know the project goals.
- You have reasonable constraints.
- You are sure that the project is feasible.
Now, you need to prove that you can achieve the project goals within given constraints.
Again, different companies will require different levels of planning. Some may not require any plan at all.
If you are comfortable committing to deliver a project within given constraints without a plan – it is up to you.
(Don’t forget that you bear the Ultimate Responsibility for project success.)
However, no serious project is done without proper planning.
So, first of all, you need to identify the requirements of your company for planning.
Then, you need to ensure that this planning approach is sufficient for given project.
Review this articles as a baseline for project planning:
Project Manager Duties During Project Execution
When a project is underway, there are hundreds of activities that a project manager is responsible for.
In fact, you are responsible for everything.
However, everything should fall under the only category – “Following the plan.”
You are responsible for following your own plan.
First of all, you allocate tasks to different people.
They do the tasks; you control the process.
The concept is simple.
You also need to ensure professional interaction between the project team and stakeholders.
You need to coordinate and facilitate their work.
Besides that, you must ensure collaboration within the team.
It means you will have to resolve personal conflicts. You need to enforce personal responsibility.
(Otherwise, you will have to micromanage everything.)
In general, you are responsible for developing a strategy to work with all stakeholders.
You need also ensure that your communication plan works. You need to set up a collaboration with global and virtual teams if required.
Here, think of communication across all activities and processes. Think about all the information flows. Not only meetings and discussions.
That is not all!
As an integrator, you need to put all the pieces of a project into a whole.
Your project will produce information like reports, estimates, lists of risks, schedules, etc.
Everything should work together.
You are responsible for enforcing risk management processes.
You need to set up quality assurance processes.
And this list goes on, and on, and on.
What you need to understand is that you need to have a plan in all aspects of a project.
Including communications, motivation, stakeholder engagement, etc.
Sometimes, you will have responsibilities beyond project management:
- You might need to develop the product the project creates.
- You might need to build business relationships with your customer.
There is no definite list of PM’s responsibilities in this part.
You need to think of it from the perspective of responsibility for project success.
Then, you need to decompose it to find out what it really means.
For different projects, for various companies, it will be a separate set of responsibilities.
Project Manager is Responsible for Controlling the Project
You have authority to use allocated resources.
It means that you have a responsibility to report on how well you used them.
At the very least, you need to report project progress in status reports.
The contents of the report is different. However, you need to understand that you are responsible for collecting data and information.
You will then be able to compile it into a report.
That is something that you need to plan ahead of time.
Moreover, it is the main reason you need a project plan. So that you can compare your initial plan with your current progress.
So, you are responsible for tracking day-to-day work of your team. You need to track the expenses. You need to monitor the usage of risks and management resources.
If you want to dive deeper into this section, check out this article:
The Responsibility of a PM to Continuously Improve
Remember, a PM is responsible for improving the chances for success of a project.
It relates to all project around you.
Your current project. Your next project. Projects that your colleagues are doing right now.
That is why during each project you need to collect quality “Lessons Learned.”
That is why you need to develop your knowledge and skills continuously.
You never know what project will be the next.
Isn’t it great when there is always someone who can share a tip or two on running a project similar to yours?
So, do make your contribution to the Project Management.
Responsibilities that No One Talks About
There are apparent responsibilities related to leading a project.
However, there are also the ones that go without saying as a part of PM’s profession.
Here are just the main ones:
As a project manager, you will be working with different kinds of people and organizations.
You will see the good, the bad, and the ugly attitude towards professional and ethical behavior.
Though, no one is actively monitoring your work.
Usually, there are no clear guidelines. In fact, you are the one to set up the behavior ground rules as a leader.
So, every day you should do as much as you can to lead the project professionally and ethically.
Learn more about possible pitfalls and grey areas of our profession here:
It is easy to fix too hard on project goals and deadlines.
You may forget about people around you. People who do the bulk of the project work.
Moreover, if they do their work well why would you disturb your team.
Here is the catch:
You best people will leave you sooner or later. Accept it as a fact.
Nevertheless, you can keep them much longer if you provide enough challenges and responsibility.
As a project manager, you are responsible for developing your people.
Even if you work on short-term projects.
Keep People Motivated
The same goes for motivation.
You may think that you are responsible for your project only.
What happens after it – it is a problem for another PM.
If you squeeze all the energy and motivation from your team to finish your project and then they run away from the company.
Well, it is a wrong kind of management.
You need to keep people motivated. After your project ends, they should be eager to start another one.
With or without you.
It should be a part of your Project Management Approach.
Ultimate Checklist to the Fullness of Your Roles and Responsibilities
Get through the list and find out how many responsibilities from PMI’s perspective you cover.
Conclusion: Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Manager
Your responsibilities are not fixed in stone.
If the project demands something special, you need to assume responsibility for that.
For sure, you can and should delegate responsibilities to the team members.
(But a good project manager never delegates the blame for failures.)
However, the ultimate responsibility for the whole project is always on you.
So, if you not sure – assume that you need to be responsible.
If you liked the article, consider joining PM Basics for free. You will get access to my Project Management Library. Check the form below.