The 10 Most Important Project Manager Responsibilities

Updated January 17, 2020

What comes to mind when you hear the term “project manager?” Stress? Hard work? Micromanagement? Unification? Organization?

How you answer this question can show what kind of project managers you’ve worked with in past positions. It also shows that this career field is not for everyone, because it takes a certain type of personality to handle.

Project managers are very well paid and quality managers are in high demand by companies all around the world. Their skills help save countless dollars while creating new products and developing new solutions. They are expected to create order out of chaos and that takes a lot of work.

10 roles and responsibilities of a project manager

If you’re thinking about whether or not this is the right career for you, it’s important to know the expectations you’ll face. That’s why I’ve put together a list of ten core project manager duties and expectations.

These project management responsibilities reflect the nature of the job and require specific qualities in order to ensure success in this career.

1. Planning

Planning is one of the most important key ingredients to prevent project failure. The best project managers understand that creating a clear and direct path is the only way to navigate the unpredictability of the execution phase of the project.

They plan out tasks, risks, contingencies, and alternate routes to success.

Sample tasks include:

  • Planning the project: One of the first responsibilities facing a project manager is putting a project management plan together that lays out the direction, work breakdown structure, critical path, timeline, and budget necessary for success. This plan is your blueprint for guiding the project through all of the highs and lows of ideation, execution, and conclusion.
  • Planning the meetings: Going into a meeting without a plan is the quickest way to waste everyone’s time. A good project manager will plan out the topics and goals of every team meeting in order to ensure productive discussions and insights.

2. Leading

The best project managers provide effective leadership during easy and trying times.

They have the ability to communicate with different types of people, provide calm and sound direction when things go wrong, and are able to point out strengths and weaknesses in others.

Lastly, being the leader of a project also means knowing when to take responsibility for failures as well as successes.

Sample tasks include:

  • Leading meetings: Since project managers have their hand in nearly everything that happens while planning, executing, and delivering a project, they should be the one leading meetings. They’ll know exactly what the team needs to cover, who to recognize, and what to improve.
  • Leading new project initiatives: When project details or tasks have to change, the project manager should always be the one to break the news to the team and lead the charge in this new direction.

3. Encouraging and inspiring

While the movie is almost certainly a glamorized fiction in many aspects, there is one part of the Ashton Kutcher “Jobs” movie that really stands out to me.

When Steve Jobs is hired back to Apple while the company is in free fall, he visits a product design team to see what they are currently working on, and he tells the team to drop everything they’re working on and to design something new. He instructs them to create something useful, something that they care about, which in turn leads them to design the 90’s era Mac computer.

I like this scene, however fictionalized it is, because it shows a leader that understands how to encourage great work out of his team. He relates their work to what is important to them.

This is a huge responsibility of any project manager because it’s not enough to just sit at the top and control a team like pawns on a chessboard. Great work requires great inspiration, and your job as a project manager is to provide that encouragement and inspiration.

Sample tasks include:

  • Recognizing successes: If something great happens with your project or someone goes above and beyond in their work, it’s always great to give recognition for these events.
  • Rewarding hard work: Not only should you recognize this hard work, but one easy way to encourage your team is to reward those successes with office perks, free lunches, or even things like sporting event tickets and gift cards.

4. Communicating

Communication strategies are essential to project success. A successful project manager must be a great communicator to inform the team about project changes, issues affecting the execution of deliverables, and the expectations for completing each task.

Successful communication means being there for everyone when needed, keeping in touch with any challenges in the way of success, and understanding the desires of the project stakeholders.

This is a huge responsibility because it puts large demands on the attention span of the project manager.

Sample tasks include:

  • Reporting on project progress and status: This must be clearly articulated to both the team as well as the project stakeholders. Without a clear understanding of where the project stands, team members and stakeholders can easily misinterpret the priorities of tasks and deliverables.
  • Communicating with team leaders: It’s important to hold regular meetings with team leaders in order to understand where the project stands in terms of progress, issues, and needs.

5. Executing

While it’s important to have a team that’ll deal with the bulk of the project life cycle, it’s important for any project manager to involve themselves to some degree in producing deliverables.

By involving themselves in the execution, they will gain a much better understanding of the project management process, what it requires, and how long it takes to produce results. This doesn’t mean the project manager ought to micromanage the process.

Instead, they should communicate with the team leaders and members, ask questions about the process, and give recommendations if needed.

Sample tasks include:

  • Allocating resources: Involving yourself with the execution process gives you an insight into the needs of each task. Use these insights to allocate resources to the correct areas and adjust those resources if they are misplaced.
  • Keep the project within the budget: Throughout the execution process, make sure that your team members are staying within the budget with each task.

6. Team building

This project manager task goes hand-in-hand with encouraging and inspiring the team. The best teams get to know one another and build bonds that’ll help improve communication and collaboration.

In one of my previous positions, I worked on a team that everyone else in the office wanted to emulate because we shared a bond that was built through plenty of team building activities and exercises.

The managers made sure we went on regular lunches, had book-reading challenges, and worked through exercises that better showed our strengths and weaknesses.

Sample tasks include:

  • Hold regular team lunches: Not only should you host team lunches, but it’s best to center these lunches around some sort of project discussion to open the floor for ideas or discussions.
  • Encourage friendly competitions between teams: Encourage team bonding through healthy competitions that encourage individual teams to work together towards a productive solution regarding the project, focusing on areas like better turnaround times, better communication, etc.).

7. Monitoring

Being involved with the execution of a project will give the manager the access they need to monitor the progress that’s being made.

Using some sort of project management software that tracks project manager tasks, identifies issues through set metrics, and mitigates risks through early issue detection will help with this.

Monitoring project progress gives the manager the information they need to produce reports for their higher-ups and project stakeholders.

Sample tasks include:

  • Download your project management tools: Good project management software will have tools to help you monitor the progress of your teams and improve communication with them on issues.
  • Address roadblocks: You have to not only monitor your projects for any issues, but you also have to address these issues with fixes and resource reallocations.

8. Presenting

Project managers are the voice of a project, and they are expected to present on anything from progress reports to stakeholders to scope adjustments to their teams. Effective presentations have to be interesting and engaging. If you want to be an effective project manager, consider practicing your public speaking in order to maximize your ability to keep a crowd engaged with everything you talk about.

Sample tasks include:

  • Hold retrospective meetings: Make sure you host regular meetings with your teams that evaluate the progress and roadblocks facing the project. These retrospective meetings should include data that lays out everything your teams need to know to improve their work going forward. This is a very popular meeting structure used in Agile project management.
  • Hold regular stakeholder meetings: Nothing will derail your work as a project manager quite like mismanaged expectations and the easiest way to do this is by leaving your stakeholders in the dark. Avoid this by holding regular meetings with stakeholders so you can keep them in the loop on your progress, what your expectations are for the coming period of time, and if anything about the project needs to change to meet their expectations, deadlines, and/or budgets.

9. Managing time

Every project needs a schedule and a project manager to keep everyone on that schedule. Project managers that get involved in the execution process and monitor the progress of deliverables will always have an edge when it comes to time management.

By involving themselves, they’ll be able to hold their teams to their schedules, ensuring satisfactory completion of their deliverables.

Sample tasks include:

  • Develop reasonable task schedules with contingencies: Going over the proposed delivery time is a risk that all projects must consider. When developing the project plan, be sure to implement schedule buffers to mitigate these risks.
  • Revisit your project schedule if needed: No project plan is perfect right out of the gate. There will always be challenges that’ll affect the project schedule, and your responsibility as the project manager is to adjust that schedule and notify the stakeholders if necessary.

10. Documenting

Documentation is a critical project manager responsibility. It’s not just a simple task of creating drawers full of ink and paper, but instead helps provide justification for future projects, helps avoid future risks, and provides managers with the information they need to keep stakeholders in the loop.

Sample tasks include:

  • Creating proper project documentation: This documentation includes more than your project plan and schedule. Any well-documented project will include work estimates, issue tracking, a feasibility study, risk assessments, requirement specifications, and many others.
  • Proper documentation organization: Documentation is of no use to anyone if it isn’t organized and stored in a well-known location, whether that location is physical or online. Develop a formal system for organizing and storing project documentation so it can be easily referenced in the future.

Do you need a project manager?

In most cases, yes, your project needs a project manager. A project manager will help you organize the thoughts, behaviors, needs, and desires of an entire team and boil these down into a cohesive execution strategy.

However, there are specific instances where you could substitute the benefits of a manager with a comprehensive project management software solution.

When you should use project management software

I’ve put together four specific scenarios in which project management software would be an appropriate substitute for a project manager. Make this decision with caution, but most importantly, go with what you think feels right when choosing.

  • The project timescale is very short: If your project is destined to be short-lived then there is no sense in bringing on a project manager to guide it to completion. A short-lived project is likely to have small tasks and goals to complete and can be achieved during the trial period of project software options like Trello.
  • The project team is three people or less: Project managers are best for making sense of larger teams. These larger teams usually need encouragement to collaborate and if you’re dealing with a very small team then a software tool like Asana will bridge that gap.
  • The project scope is small: If your project scope is small, then it won’t require a project manager to keep it in line and on target. Smaller projects typically require much smaller teams and all they’ll need to stay organized is a simple task management tool such as Microsoft To-Do.
  • The project is low value: There’s no sense in spending lots of money on a project manager for a goal that provides little value. There are plenty of free project management software options out there, like Freedcamp, that’ll help you see this task through to its completion without overspending on additional personnel.

Learn more about what it takes to be a project manager

Now that you understand the roles of a project manager, you’re sure to have a better understanding of whether or not you want to pursue this career path.

If you’re new to this field, we have plenty of guides here on The Blueprint that cover project management basics as well as specific methods like kanban project management.

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