What is it that project managers do? The thing is, there’s no one definition in particular that will fit the job description of every manager out there. It’s because the nature of their job varies depending on the type of organization they work for.
But, even then, there always seems to be a lot of ambiguity in this context. Nobody really knows for sure what a project manager’s job is. Sure, they can give you a textbook definition of what project managers do (such as organizing, planning, allocating resources, managing processes, communicating, etc).
The ugly truth is that most people think of managers as those who don’t make any real contribution. Sadly because nobody knows for sure exactly how they contribute in a project. Everything they do is looked at or perceived to be a barrier to productivity.
Conducting meetings (a class time-waster), asking for status reports, not to mention the constant interfering and micromanaging that majority finds annoying. All of these things are a manager’s responsibilities, and all of it is largely seen as counterproductive stuff.
So, what are they really supposed to do?
Or, should I say what they really should be doing. Let’s just say the role of a manager is highly relative. Meaning, it can take different shapes and forms depending on the nature/scale of project and the type/size of the organization. But, generally speaking a manager’s real job is to make the worklife of others as easy as they possibly can, and not the other way round.
Their job is to remove all the unnecessary distractions from team’s way, so people could remain fully devoted to their work and meet deadlines every single time. Managers are supposed to be always passionate about increasing other people’s productivity. And for that they have to put on multiple hats. They have to be a counselor, communicator, subject matter expert, and what not. Basically they have to act like a jack-of-all-trades.
Let’s break it down to simplify things even further –
#1 Being the boss
That’s true. A project manager is a boss on so many levels. But, he is not the boss of the team; he is the boss of the project. Manager is the one accountable for any and all problems that a project may bump into.
As a manager your job is not to dictate employees on what type of technology to use (unless you happen to have a solid technical background), and stuff like that. Your job is to communicate with clients, ask for their requirements, and work with teams to collectively figure out how the same can be accomplished within the said timeline and resources.
It’s important to leave the how and all the other technical details in the hands of the team/experts. Collaborate with them and let them contribute. Your job is to meet the requirements on time. That doesn’t mean that you have to get involved in the doing part.
#2 Maintaining the balance
Talk about project and you talk about changing priorities. In the middle of so much that goes, it’s the project manager who has to strike the balance. Sometimes two departments can be fighting for different things (even though they share the same goal). There can sometimes be a disagreement between designers and developers. But a good manager is the one who knows how to walk that fine line so that no department feels neglected. Do not let any one party win, but at the same time don’t let any of them feel ignored either.
#3 Co-creating the product
The type of contribution that managers make in the development of a product is not very direct. It’s always indirect. They don’t sit down and start writing down the code, or design the website (unless your job demands so). But, they are the co-creator of the final product. They do so by guiding others in the same direction.
After all, a team’s performance and efficiency depends on how well the manager communicates clients’ requirements with the team. And, brings everyone together to create an environment that ensures timely delivery of the same.
But, in the attempt of trying to do so, a lot of project managers end-up micromanaging things. After all, they have to present the details in front of the clients. But, that’s a mistake. A good manager will always have the details of the project on his fingertips, but will never micromanage (unless he happens to be a hybrid manager, and a really skilled one at that).
#4 Being the representative
As a mediator, a manager is basically representing one party to another. That implies communicating client’s expectations and requirements with team. It means breaking down the requirements into little details and pushing the team members and inspiring them to go above and beyond to meet them. While representing a client, a manager has to convince the team that the goal is achievable even when it may look challenging.
This was one side of the story. The other side is the one where managers are representing the team by presenting their work/contribution in front of the client. This is something that’s very critical, because you must know how to play your cards right. The key is not to turn against your own team even when you are agreeing with the client. Remember, you are representing your team and not yourself. An ideal representative is the one who does not let his personal differences or prejudice come in the way while acting like one.
That way, a manager serves as a representative for both the parties.
#5 Being a catalyst
A manager’s real job is to make it easier for everyone else to function effortlessly in a collaborative environment where different people’s jobs are interconnected. A manager’s true job is to act like a catalyst (a positive one) that speeds things up. He has to act like a guide, a mentor, a guru, telling others how to make a positive shift in the right direction while looking over the entire project from the eagle’s view.
So, yeah! That pretty much sums up the kind of role that every project manager should ideally be playing in any organization. How well a manager is doing his or her job is not measured in terms of busy or how much work he/she is doing. It does not matter whether you’re watching videos on YouTube half the time. As long as teams are working efficiently, meeting deadlines on time, and things are going smoothly; you’re doing an excellent job!