Project Manager

Project manager speaking to project team

In today's professional environment, project managers are required to wear a variety of hats, shifting between the everyday functions of managing a team to understanding the big picture strategy. Because of this, project managers have become more valuable to organizations, and the demand for their skills and strategic roles has grown worldwide.

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What is a project manager?

The role of a project manager refers to the professional charged with overseeing the five processes of project management including: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing or delivering a project.

Even more simply defined, project managers decide what it is that needs to be done, when it will need to be done by, and how much it will all cost.

What comes to mind when you hear the title “project manager?” Do you picture the lead on a new version of a software product? Or maybe you visualize the person overseeing the design and build of a new site for a growing company? What about the expert in manufacturing pushing improvement in the production process of medical devices? You'll also find a project manager (or often a traffic manager) at an agency driving the latest campaign deliverables to completion for a major retailer.

Project manager job requirements

Project managers are essentially responsible for aligning a team of colleagues around a common goal, whether they work in construction or architecture, information technology or software development, communications or marketing initiatives, manufacturing or healthcare. Regardless of the field of work, the primary job requirements of a project manager include:

To be a successful project manager, you’ll need a wide variety of skills, including communication, time management, risk management, and leadership. Project managers must also understand each team member’s role and responsibilities to balance workloads and help the team work together to reach the objective effectively and efficiently.

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Project manager skills

In reality, the role of project manager is anything but simple. Like the projects they manage, there is a fairly complex list to the actual job requirements. A good project manager will need to develop certain traits and abilities to be successful.

It's fairly obvious that great organization skills are a must. A few more helpful traits for a project manager include the ability to be comfortable with constant change and adapt plans accordingly, the foresight to set achievable outcomes, and analytical skills to help determine actionable timeframes and deadlines.

During the daily grind of project management, it is key to be able to shift back and forth between managing the everyday workflow and the big picture.

It's imperative to focus on the seemingly small, yet critical, details of the tasks and not lose sight of the bigger picture—to process how the project is fulfilling the strategic goals. A good project manager will also be able to interpret how the project can help the business evolve and succeed.

This toolkit of skills is enhanced when a project manager takes the time to cultivate good people skills. Clear communication with team members and stakeholders increases collaboration, builds trust, and improves problem solving.

It's clear to see why good project managers are becoming more valuable in organizations of all kinds and increasing in demand worldwide. When it comes to the tactical aspects of the job, experts agree there are certain practices that successful project managers learn to do well.

Create visibility

Project managers optimize a team's time and talent by balancing each person's strengths, abilities, and workload. A successful project manager will establish the role of a gatekeeper and know how to best allocate available resources and shift workloads when necessary.

One way to do this is to centralize work requests by standardizing the request processes—create one way to request work and one place for incoming and ongoing work to reside. This will improve resource planning and create visibility across the team so that no one person is overworked. It also puts an end to ad-hoc requests that easily pile up and sideline the workflow.

Develop processes

Regardless of the project management methodology a team uses, efficient processes are needed to get projects from start to finish. One way to establish consistency is to create standard templates and project timelines that everyone can follow.

Outlining recurring steps and project resources needed for every activity will ensure that critical tasks aren't overlooked or done in the wrong order. Once a template contains all of the necessary tasks in the correct order, timeline thresholds can be added to complete each step.

Defined work processes will help avoid rework and meet specified timeframes.

Ensure effective communication

Balance the importance of the process with the importance of your people.

A key step in managing multiple deadlines and projects is regular communication between project managers and team members. Effective communication will help build trust among the team. It also helps everyone cope with and adjust to changes in workflow together.

Plan brief, but regular, status updates to help manage work and enhance collaboration. Clarify the goal of the meeting is to identify relevant issues, ask questions, and seek out solutions together. This will help create a responsive and adaptive environment.

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Project manager education

To move along the project manager career path, you may need to pursue an undergraduate degree that focuses on the management and human resources skills needed within your chosen industry.

Various organizations also offer project manager certification programs that provide training to those with unrelated degrees—or without a degree at all. A program like the Project Management Professional (PMP) is globally recognized by employers and could prove very useful and impressive as you interview for project management careers. For specific industries like construction, you will want to consider a training certificate like from the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). These certifications often require years of experience working within a project management position or training program or, at the very least, experience being a lead on a project.