Published on Wednesday, December 30, 2009
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Recently, I was reading a discussion thread on this on the LinkedIn site. Someone had posted the question, “What is the Most Valuable Role of a Project Manager?” Someone posted that question along with a follow-up question…”And how can a Project Manager optimize that role?"
At the time of this writing, the discussion has been going on for 9 days and has 11 comments so far. Breaking it down by responses that actually tried to answer the question rather than just chime in on the discussion, here are the results (the number in parentheses is the number of that specific response):
So, out of 11 comments, 8 actually gave answers. And of those 8 (one was me), 5 stated that communicator was the key role of the project manager (and yes, I was one of those 5).
I find this interesting. And all responses were good responses. The discussion will probably continue for a while, but I find it likely that communicator will still be on top down the road. The other responses are important ones.
The ability for the PM to say ‘no’ – especially to the customer who they are trying to lead to the right solution – is very important. If the PM can’t be strong – stubborn as I’ve often called it – and stand firm on the goals of the project and know when to say ‘no’, then the project is likely to face issues and the project scope is in constant danger of getting out of hand.
Likewise, the project manager must be a strong leader. The responder stated that a good leader will know when to listen, when to speak, when to encourage, and when to cry out louder. The PM is the leader in charge of many different backgrounds and personalities. The role as the leader is a given, but they must adequately fulfill that role in order to hope to achieve success on the project. Yes, I agree, leadership is critical.
Anytime you’re delivering a project you’re delivering change to the business or client. The project manager is that change agent and sometimes has to work hard to knock down barriers to change. They must work well with others inside the business or with the client to make that change happen and to help that change be accepted. The PM is definitely a change advocate.
However, I still believe – as I always have – that the role of effective communicator is the most critical role for the project manager. All project communication happens with the project manager – it all needs to go through this one position. And if it doesn’t – if critical communication routinely circumvents the process and goes around the PM, then the project is likely headed for disaster. The PM is the central point for project status, project meetings, emails, revised schedules, issues tracking, risk tracking, and budget management. If key pieces of project information miss the project manager, then they will likely miss other critical communication points and individuals as well.
A project manager must be an effective communicator and must maintain control over the communication process in order to give the project its best chance at success.
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