Project Roles & Responsibilities – what a conundrum!

The most interesting and animated discussions during my PM courses are always around the roles and responsibilities during project definition, planning and delivery.

We always start the discussion with the deceptively simple question:

What is the role of the Project Manager?

After some smarty pants says… “To manage the project…” we usually end up with a range of words like facilitate, co-ordinate, oversee and then go onto a good debate around the classic project management words  – responsible and accountable

The simplistic view on this is that the PM is responsible for ensuring that the project outputs are delivered successfully and that they stay aligned to the project outcomes, enabled by the accountable project sponsor

That is all very well in theory, but I pride myself in delivering PM training which enables delegates to map a PM approach to their world, their organisational culture, their team and specific project.

And so often the theoretical PM hierarchy model is just not the way the roles and responsibilities and lines of communication work in reality

Here are regular questions which crop up:

  1. How can I be the project manager and be a member of the project team?
  2. Can you have 2 project managers?
  3. I think I am actually managing this project but am not officially the PM
  4. Can I be both the PM and the project sponsor?

We always agree by the end of the session that:

  1. We need to take care with the labels and instead concentrate on the actual roles and responsibilities of each person involved. Who is making the decisions? Who is acting as the main hub for communication? Who is responsible for reporting on progress? etc
  2. Whenever you start on a project you need to draw up the organisation structure and try to understand who is going to be involved and what each person’s role is going to be
  3. One individual can have multiple roles in any one project. So we need to understand the different hats which one individual can wear and how that is going to be handled by the governance processes. It is perfectly natural for an individual be a member of the project team and the PM or even project sponsor.
  4. You need to consider the culture of the organisation or team, as well as the behavioural styles and leadership styles of the people involved. How are the dynamics likely to play out between the sponsor and the PM; and between the PM and the different members of the team.

If you take the time to consider all the above questions and build your team roles and governance processes around your answers you will be setting off on a sound footing.