12.3. Roles of Project Manager

In an article for MIT Sloan Management Review, Alexander Laufer, Edward Hoffman, Jeffrey Russell, and Scott Cameron show how successful project managers combine traditional management methods with newer, more flexible approaches to achieve better outcomes (Laufer et al., 2015). Their research shows that successful project managers adopt these four vital roles:

  1. Develop Collaboration Among Project Participants: “Most projects are characterized by an inherent incompatibility: the various parties to the project are loosely coupled, whereas the tasks themselves are tightly coupled. When unexpected events affect one task, many other interdependent tasks are quickly affected. Yet the direct responsibility for these tasks is distributed among various loosely coupled parties, who are unable to coordinate their actions and provide a timely response. Project success, therefore, requires both interdependence and trust among the various parties” (Laufer et al., 2015, p. 46).
  2. Integrate Planning with Learning: “Project managers faced with unexpected events employ a ‘rolling wave’ approach to planning. Recognizing that firm commitments cannot be made on the basis of volatile information, they develop plans in waves as the project unfolds and information becomes more reliable. With their teams, they develop detailed short-term plans with firm commitments while also preparing tentative long-term plans with fewer details” (Laufer et al., 2015, p. 46).
  3. Prevent Major Disruptions: Successful project managers “never stop expecting surprises, even though they may affect major remedial changes only a few times during a project. They’re constantly anticipating disruptions and maintaining the flexibility to respond proactively…. When change is unavoidable, a successful project manager acts as early as possible, since it is easier to tackle a threat before it reaches a full-blown state” (Laufer et al., 2015, p. 47).
  4. Maintain Forward Momentum: “When unexpected events affect one task, many other interdependent tasks may also be quickly impacted. Thus, solving problems as soon as they emerge is vital for maintaining work progress” (Laufer et al., 2015, p. 48).

Adopting these four roles will set you on the road toward delivering more value in your projects, with less waste, which is also the goal of both Lean project management and Agile project management.


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Essentials of Project Management Copyright © 2021 by Adam Farag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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