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Defining Project Management

Dear Dave
Please provide an article on the “typical” duties (or what is expected) of a project manager.

Dear DB
My personal favorite: to absolutely amaze and dazzle his or her clients and firm!

I’ve found the definition and expectations of “typical” project managers vary widely from firm to firm which makes it really tough to settle on a universal description. Duties considered those of a project manager at firm A, may well be construed to be those of a job captain at firm B. The fundamental difference is often in the degree of autonomy, authority and accountability bestowed on those who find themselves anointed Project Manager.

At a very basic level, a true project manager has four key objectives on any given project: 1) To complete a scope of work agreed to between client and firm; 2) To finish the work by a scheduled date; 3) To stay within the budgeted fee; 4) To ensure the quality of all work performed meets professional and firm standards.

The management part of project management is the art (or science) of effectively applying TIMELY leadership and direction to ensure all four objectives are met. The best project managers have developed an uncanny, 3D-like ability to know precisely at all times exactly where any one project objective is relative to each of the other objectives and act accordingly. Some project managers do it in their heads while others rely on a combination of sophisticated checklists, scheduling software, or project-oriented accounting reports. Regardless of the tools used, they constantly and confidently ask, answer and respond to the following questions regarding their projects.

Should an accounting report show a project has consumed 30% of the fee, has the team completed a corresponding amount of work, and is the project still on track for meeting its delivery date? Or, given the state of work, are we where we need to be on the fee budget spent and the calendar? Or, based on today’s date, are we okay on the scope of work and the fee considering the scheduled deadline? And, at all times, is the quality of what has been accomplished up to expectations and standards?

Should any project objective be in trouble relative to the other three, the best project managers act decisively while there is still time (and dollars) available to bring the wayward objective, and the project, back on track. Finding out you’re really only 80% finished, with the fee already spent and the project due to go out tomorrow, is project management at its worst.

Wahby and Associates