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What Does a Project Manager Do?

Jason Westland, CEO

You intuitively know the importance of a good project manager. Experience tells you that there is an incalculable value that a professional project manager will bring to any organization. If you do your job well, you will soon find that your project management skills will be hand-picked by stakeholders and team members to manage their projects.
four pillars that support a good project manager

But do you know how to add value beyond the textbook definition of a project manager?

The following are 4 value-add services you can provide as a project manager to make a huge difference to your team:

1. Minimize Interruptions

There is nothing more that team members on your project appreciate and value than the ability to do their work uninterrupted. Today’s technology-driven jobs require focus and deliberate attention. Of course, this flies in direct contrast to today’s interruption-driven work environment.

People are constantly stopping by their desk to ask questions, get a copy of the latest project dashboard, clarify their understanding about a particular topic or aspect of the project, or looking to brainstorm on upcoming work.

It is often your best resources who suffer the most interruptions. This is because they are your best resources. They are professional, knowledgeable, and have answers to most of the questions asked them. They are not afraid to think creatively and are good to bounce ideas off of. But, the fact that they are also your best resources means that they are most likely expensive and their expertise is needed on the project at hand.

What can a project manager do to help such a person on their team? Minimize these interruptions. Make sure they have blocks of uninterrupted time in which to get their jobs done. It is amazing what a person who knows what they are doing can get done in remarkably short bursts of time.

Serve as their gatekeeper. Be the person who filters questions and requests for information. They will understand why you’re doing this and will most likely work with this arrangement. You can set up a certain time each day when this resource is available. This technique is called the “office hours” approach. Let it be known that between 2:00-3:00 in the afternoon this person is available for any and all questions and that they need to only stop by at that time. The reality is that most questions do not need to be answered ‘that second’ but rather it is more a matter of convenience than anything else.

Minimizing interruptions also means limiting the amount of unnecessary meetings that your team members are invited to attend. People will send out blanket meeting invites that include everyone in the company. The unfortunate reality is that only a small percentage of those in attendance actually need to be there and provide input. It’s no problem for team members to attend meetings, just make sure they are relevant and necessary.

2. Clear the Way

It’s hard to make measurable progress if you have to walk on the path and clear the path at the same time. It’s even more frustrating for the people on your project team if they have to figure out what needs to be done: work through project politics or make sure they have the necessary resources available to them to do their job. Morale will quickly wane and productivity diminish.

Clear the way for those on your team to follow. Define clear roles and expectations for the resources on your team and make sure processes to resolve issues or risks are communicated and implemented.

A good project manager will make sure there is a clear path to follow, that there are very few open issues or risks that will slow things down. They will make sure there are no politics or indecision seeping through to the project team that could introduce confusion or hesitancy to team members.

3. Organize

Take a look at people’s desks and you’ll see why this is such an important and critical answer to the question about what does a project manager do. There are books and papers stacked everywhere. Post-it notes are stuck like wallpaper and there are carcasses of old equipment that is either broken or no longer used sprawled on their bookshelves.

While they may not admit it, they do like it when you come in with your neatly organized binder of project documentation. Sure, they may scoff a little bit, but deep inside they wish they had your skills of organization. As a project manager your team benefits by extension of the organizational skills you bring to the table.

4. Prioritize

Team members receive direction from so many people on their job today. They get it from their boss, someone from another department, their boss’s boss, a customer request, or a favor asked from a peer or colleague. The next thing you know this person is overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to do it. So they just stop and nothing gets done!

being organized as a manager rubs off on the project teamYou can help by showing them how to prioritize. But where do you start? The following is a line of questioning you can use that can help prioritize what is on their plate:

  • Will it bring in revenue? This is the first question you need to ask in a business environment. If they have projects that are backed up that upon completion the company will get paid for…work on those activities first.
  • Will it quiet noise? There may not necessarily be revenue attached to a particular activity but rather a lot of noise. There could be complaints from a customer, or somebody in another department is waiting on something to be finished. This noise comes up every time at the status meetings and is painful to listen to week after week. If finishing this activity will make that noise go away…then do that next.
  • What’s left? This is the rest of the list. If it won’t bring in money or quiet noise, then put it at the bottom of the list. Once you’ve been paid and it is quiet you can now work on anything else that may still be considered important. That’s a key point too. There are many things in this category that the passage of time will no longer render important.

What does a project manager duties include? Plenty. But, if you keep the four value-add activities as part of everything you do as a project manager you will find that others will have the answer to what you do as a project manager.

The four pillars that support a good project manager are important to know, of course, but it’s also necessary that as a project manager you have the right tools at your disposal to get organized and prioritize those tasks. Not only that, you need to have a real-time overview of the many moving parts of your project if you ever hope to properly direct it to a successful completion. Thankfully, there is software powerful enough to do all this and more. Try ProjectManager.com free for 30 days and keep track of time, expenses, risks, issues, and changes to your project all online!

 
 
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