The Evolution of the Project Management Role

This is an article that I elaborated during my Master’s at Santa Clara University.

The project manager is basically the agent responsible to coordinate several activities related to a specific project. However, during the years the role of project manager has been changing. It is not only coordination, but understand the internal and external environment to perceive the real necessities. The article presents the evolution from a “checklist” project manager to a “consultative” project manager.

The firsts project managers were doing their basic function of coordinating and executing tasks to have the project respecting the deadlines. Those projects manager thrived during the “dot com” era due to some reasons, such as: scheduling skills, easy access to capital and employment of the first to market strategies. In addition, the project manager rarely was invited to an executive round table to make decisions based in facts realized during the project.

By the end of “dot com” era, a new project concern raised: cost over schedule. At this point, the “consultative” project manager is more suitable. They are critical and strategic thinkers who can justify quantitatively and qualitatively the need for a project. In addition, they eliminated the need to have two separated resources (consultant and project manager) lowering the total cost of the projects. In this new scenario the “checklist” project managers started to lose their jobs and only the ones who changed their mindset succeed in the new environment. Furthermore, the consultative project managers participate in the company decisions about corporate vision, goals and strategies. Thus, the “checklist” project manager now is seen as an IT based task coordinator and executor.

Nowadays we have a lot of tools that can assist with the previous essential scheduling task, such as Microsoft Project. Project management software’s enables users to analyze resources, budgets and timelines.

The facilitators allow the project managers to focus more in other knowledge that are related to the behavioral skills than technical skills. The project manager need to deal with people everyday: negotiating, persuading, gathering, etc. Several times you need to deal with people that you do not know or do not have affinity. In those cases, negotiation and persuade skill will increase the likelihood of getting better results in the project.

Some other behavioral competencies are essential for a good project manager:

· Organization: Project managers in the workplace must have general organizational skills, which allow them to determine the supplies they need, how to arrange their files and whom to contact for specific information. Organization skill helps keeping team members busy, especially those that require a lot of direction, like file clerks or contract workers.

· Decision maker and initiator: The whole purpose of indulging in the decision making process is to make a rational decision. Rational decision making means a tendency that is suitable to the already existing goals within the given conditions and constraints. Project Management thrives on the rationality of decisions and here is where it is important for the Project manager to have a process which enables him and his team decide rationally about different aspects of the project.

· Leadership: The necessary leadership skills for project managers differ from those required in other disciplines, so it is important to cultivate proficiency in areas that are unique to project management. Most notably, the project manager is responsible for managing the project itself rather than the individual team members who are contributing to its completion. The project manager does not serve as a superior in a supervisory role, so leadership skills for project managers tend to be collaborative rather than authoritative.

· Customer oriented: the result of the project need to meet the customer expectations. Project manager and team align their objectives around satisfying and retaining customers.