Project Practitioners > What is a P.R.O.J.E.C.T. Manager? Part 4 of 7

What is a P.R.O.J.E.C.T. Manager? Part 4 of 7

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 4 minutes


It is week four of my exploration into the question, “What is a project manager?” In previous weeks, I discussed some of the ‘P,’ ‘R,’ and ‘O’ nouns used to describe a project manager.


This week, ‘J’ nouns 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 four.



anitors clean up messes. People walk through a building leaving their trail of dirt, grime, and garbage. It is a janitor’s job to restore the original shine to the environment.


Much like a janitor, a project manager ties up loose ends. Stakeholders want everything, and a project manager needs to decipher between wants and needs. Team members get sloppy as well. Notes do not get written down, and disputes arise. With no documentation, a project manager must reconcile the differences and clean up the mess.


Lessons learned become an important aspect of closing out a project. This document helps the janitor proactively seek out problems in future projects before a mess is created. Part of a janitor’s job is not only clean up the mess but also to prevent future mess from occurring.



Jerk seems like a harsh word to use. No one likes a jerk. No one wants to be a jerk. Why would I label a project manager a jerk? Because sometimes the only way to get a message through to somebody is fight fire with fire.


Honesty has the potential to create a ‘jerk’ label. Telling an individual what they want to hear can be the worst thing for him or her. Criticism has a ‘jerk’ tendency as well. Some people take criticism and become better. Others take criticism personally and refuse to change labeling the criticizer a ‘jerk.’


Obnoxious is synonymous with a jerk. Project managers need to be obnoxious when it comes to details and getting them correct. If a supplier promised the materials by Wednesday and they delivered them on Thursday, the project manager will be obnoxious in some calls and emails sent the suppliers way.



Journalists are great at asking the right questions and getting to the heart of a story. Project managers use this skill to create demand for a product they are developing. Being a good journalist means listening to customers and finding out what they need, prioritizing it, and delivering the goods.


Asking questions helps with conflict in a team as well. Who is right or wrong is not as important as avoiding these clashes in the future. Roles and responsibilities may need to be assigned to clear any disputes as to who owns which tasks.


Journalists also develop a clear way of communication. Delivering a message to an audience is necessary for a journalist to succeed. Project managers must ask questions and receive answers, but if they cannot communicate the findings, the information gets lost.



A project manager plays the role of a judge not only during conflict resolution but also before a project starting. No legal ramifications are at stake, so a law degree is not required. Like I stated earlier, determining right and wrong is not the job of a project manager. However, realizing which direction should be taken next is.


The judgment of a project manager is crucial to success. Being too risky lands the organization in troubled waters. Being too cautious does not see growth. Finding the sweet spot on the risk spectrum is where a project manager’s judgment comes into play.



Projects may appear dead. No one involved wants it to continue yet the organization pushes forward. A project manager might need to come in and jumpstart the project. Bring optimism and expertise to revive what appears dead.


A car is vital for transportation. Without one, most people cannot get to their jobs. If said car does not start, the individual cannot carry out their work. The same goes for a project within an organization. Some projects may be so vital to an organization’s success that failing is not an option. Just like the car needs to get up and running for the person to be useful, the project needs a jumpstart to keep the organization on the road to success.



Someone has to make a decision. In a courtroom, the jury hands down the verdict. On a project, the project manager hands down the deliverables. What needs to get done? Who needs to perform which tasks? When does each task get completed? All of these questions are answered by the project manager.


The direction of a project is another decision for the ‘jury’ to make. People come to the project manager with evidence as to why this or that will or will not work. It is the project manager’s responsibility to determine the best-case scenario and move forward.



I relate juvenile to the mind of a child. Releasing the child’s mind within brings about creativity and problem solving sometimes blocked by an adult’s experiences. Think back to a time when invisible objects were effective in having fun. There would be a safe zone if you were playing tag or an off-limits area when playing hide and go seek. Now, as an adult, those invisible boundaries disappear and are no longer respected. Why? Because they do not exist.


This scenario can limit the capacity our brains have to solve problems. A child can see things that are not there because they do not have the experience telling them the thing is not there. Unlock this ability to dream and go big by reverting to your child mind. Become juvenile. Have fun with what is in front of you.



Again, these nouns to describe a project manager only start the discussion and in no way encompass all that a project manager does. Being judge and juror gives the project manager great responsibility in the direction of a project. This authority needs to be harnessed and not abused.


I end with having fun because that gets lost in the shuffle. More issues arise than solutions present themselves. This situation can be frustrating, but the perspective to incorporate fun lightens the mood of not only yourself but also your team. This looseness can bring about the solutions you seek.

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