What does a Project Manager do?

A Project Manager's job description can be summarized as the meticulous coordination of a project from inception through to the finishing touches.

But what does a Project Manager actually do?

I once had a boss who would come by every day at 16:00. The conversation went something like this:
Boss: Today we need to create the following SKU....
Me: Today? It's almost home time. When did you find out about this?
Boss: Yesterday, but it wasn't due until today EOB.

After a few months of this, I realized 2 things:
1. Brilliant engineers who become Team Leaders do not necessarily know anything about planning.
2. I wanted to become a Project Manager and help the company become more efficient.

A Project Manager informs the team of the schedule so that all team members know what to expect in a timely fashion.

Question: Does a Project Manager help with the actual work?

Once I decided to become a Project Manager I went to the CTO and requested to join the PjM team.
Amazingly enough he allowed me to do so, and even gave me a mentor.

The first thing my mentor - Nathan Slonim - taught me was the Golden Rule of Project Management, as he had been taught, when he worked at IBM.

Golden Rule #1: Project Managers do not do any work!

Over the years I have broken that rule various times, in order to help meet deadlines, and the result has usually been that the project spun out of control. You cannot control a project and work on it at the same time.

That said, a good Project Manager knows how to relieve team members of "nuisance work". For example, programmers should not have to do graphic work. A good Project Manager would relieve the programmer of this task, even if it means he has to do some art work himself.

A Project Manager's job is to make sure everything runs smoothly; he cannot afford to be distracted by "tuning out" and becoming part of the project. But he should know the details of what is happening.

In future posts we will address:
- Why do adults need a Project Manager? Surely they can manage without a babysitter?
- Do Project Managers need to understand the technicalities of the project they are managing?
- Is Project Management all about scheduling?
- How do you make an accurate schedule?

Stay tuned.

- Danny Schoemann
  Lecturer and Consultant; Project Management, Risk Assessment and Crisis Control

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