When I first started to manage projects, I had envisioned the role as being similar to that of an orchestra conductor – while not being directly responsible for playing specific instruments, possessing familiarity with the strengths and weaknesses of each, and being instrumental (pun intended) in creating harmonious melodies instead of raucous cacophonies.
This illusion rapidly dissipated after a few days on the job. I came to realize that project managers need to be like Lon Chaney – the man of a thousand faces. Here are a few of the roles that a PM might be called on to play in a typical project.
1. Salesperson - Successful PMs need to be able to create a need for and “sell” their customers, stakeholders and team members on decisions or recommendations that may not be popular.
2. Football lineman – A PM must often be the offensive lineman preventing their “quarterbacks” (a.k.a. team members) from getting tackled by distractions.
3. Coach - Vince Lombardi nailed the essence of effective project management with his quote “Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”
4. Diplomat - PMs are often called upon to help resolve conflicts, negotiate for win-win outcomes and to deliver bad news in a constructive fashion.
5. Historian - PMs should be able to review the past life of their projects, analyze events and derive lessons that can be applicable to future projects.
6. Diagnostician - PMs require the analytical ability and perspective to look beyond symptoms to help identify the root issues that are plaguing their projects.
My guess is that there are probably a hundred other roles that could be part of this list – how many can you add?