Project Practitioners > What is a P.R.O.J.E.C.T. Manager? Part 2 of 7

What is a P.R.O.J.E.C.T. Manager? Part 2 of 7

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


It is week two of my exploration into the question, “What is a project manager?” In week one, I discussed all of the ‘P’ nouns used to describe a project manager.


This week, ‘R’ terms will be discussed. Again, this discussion does not encompass all that a project manager can be, but it delves into the core and creates discussion.


Let’s get started with part two.



Every project manager needs to be rational. A six-month project cannot be done in one month because resources do not allow for it. A plan has been established. An estimate is created. Work breakdown structures divvy out resources to give an idea of how the project should run.


Being a rationalist protects a project manager from sugar coating. Sugar coating is telling someone the project is progressing better than actual. This strategy does no one any good. It gives a false sense of reality to any executives trying to make decisions and gives sponsors a comfort that is not real.


Rationality delivers a truth in a form that is digestible. While projects may not be going according to plan, there are steps in place to get it back on track. This rationality should bring some comfort to those at risk and shows you have already thought proactively.



To balance out your logical side, there must be a rebel dwelling. You must be willing to buck the system to realize gains surpassing anyone’s expectations.


Asking the question “Why?” tends to be the most rebellious action you can take. People go about their days without ever thinking why they do what they do. There is not a pause to look inward. “I do this because this is what I do” is an answer you may receive.


Rebels do not become robots. Offices are chalked full of robots entering data, scheduling work, planning months in advance, and so on. Rebels take risks robots are not willing to take. These risks are calculated, not some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants hazards.


Rebels also tend to be visionaries, dreamers, and movers of the needle. Robots like a steady 3% increase over time while rebels want to 10x that percentage.



Reconnaissance is usually a word used for military observation or even spying. I want to use this word in the context of industry or clients. You are performing preliminary surveying or research.


Construction is an industry requiring reconnaissance before every project. Seeing the plan on paper and seeing the job site become very different activities. On paper, the project looks neat and tidy. Everything fits perfectly. On site, there are telephone poles and cables in the way of excavations, buildings are standing tall where the new storm sewer needs to go, and underground utilities are right next to the new water main line.


Without performing some preliminary research, you may bid the project according to plan. This estimate will turn into a disaster because the unforeseen problems on paper become very apparent in person.


Clients and industry can also be researched. A simple Yelp search may find information on a client to help or hurt their case. Industries are always changing. To be proactive, reconnaissance is vital.



There will be conflict. Conflict can be a good thing if handled properly. Enter the project manager’s referee responsibility. Team rules should be established before a project begins. These rules should state how the team is to handle themselves, how work should be performed, and other duties required for a smoother working experience.


You, as the project manager and leader of the team, need to enforce these rules. Without enforcement, rules might as well not exist.


Referee is one of the unpopular roles of a project manager. Feelings may get hurt. Friendships may get tested. In the end, your team will be better off enforcing the rules rather than the inmates running the asylum.



In an electrical sense, a resistor is a device having a designed resistance to the passage of an electric current. In a project manager sense, a resistor is a mindset used to detract from accepting any and all ideas, proposals, suggestions, etc. as being beneficial.


A project manager must resist temptation. Sponsors want one thing, stakeholders want another, and your company wants a third option. All of them sound great in theory. In being the resistor, you must resist the flow of all this information similar to a filter.


All emails are not important. All phone calls do not need to be answered. All office visits are not the same. A resistor picks and chooses what needs to be let through, and all other inputs can be stifled. Like an electrical circuit, if too much electricity gets through, the system will short, and nothing works. If too much information or distractions get let in, you will shut down or waste valuable resources on non-impactful events.



Contracts, plans, schedules, and so on. You put eyes on every single one involved with your project reviewing each one to ensure it is aligned with your goals.


The review process should not only be project related but also team and individual related. Review how your team is working together. Are there ways to change? If so, what changes need to be made?


Look internally. How can you be a better project manager? Review your day-to-day activities to see if anything needs to be added or cut out. Constant refining and cutting the fat is what a reviewer does.



Not to take it medieval but a project manager is a ruler of a team and project. What you say goes. Having command over a project shows an understanding of project management.


The tools and techniques you use do not much matter if they are ineffective. The latest and greatest may not work for you. This inability to adapt to technology should not impact your ability to rule over a project. Use what does work.


In the end, if the numbers are the same and the results are positive, how you got there does not matter. You have a team of individuals to manage. Micromanaging only gets in the way. Work styles vary. Allow your team to be individuals the same way they allow you to manage the project.


Rulers are adaptable. Onslaughts come in many forms, and rulers need to roll with the punches. While you may not be fighting off the Khans or Napoleon, your role as a leader remains similar. You have obstacles and need to find solutions.



So, this concludes week two’s exploration of the question, “What is a project manager?” There is dichotomy throughout a project manager’s role. Some days you have to be rebellious to achieve your goals. Other days, remaining rational keeps things moving forward.


The balance of roles for a project manager makes it so difficult to explain what a project manager is and does. Hopefully, as this exploration continues, the picture becomes clearer.


What are some of the ‘P’ words you would use to describe a project manager?

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