To outsiders, the field of project management might be indistinguishable from the rest of business management. After all, general managers and project managers both are responsible for overseeing teams of employees, developing and managing budgets and timelines and contributing to organizational success. So, why is there a distinction made for project management, and why can’t project managers demand the same titles and perks as general managers?
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Not All Project Managers Are Managers
Though the word “manager” is in the title, a project manager is not necessarily a business manager. While some project managers do, in fact, operate at the same level as some general managers, most project managers have responsibilities that are on par with non-managerial staff. In some organizational charts, project managers are considered typical employees, but project managers can also be hired as contingent workers — contractors or independent consultants.
In smaller organizations, business budgets tend to be tighter, meaning management cannot afford to hire distinct project managers. As a result, general managers might take on the responsibilities of project managers, blurring the lines between these roles. However, in truth, the word “manager” in this context is inseparable from the word “project.” Project managers manage projects, and in doing so, they might need to manage resources and people associated with those projects. In most cases, project managers have little to no impact on the function of the organization as a whole, and they should not be conflated with general business managers who do.
Project Managers Have Unique Responsibilities
Because project managers are responsible only for achieving the goals established for a specific project, they have specific responsibilities that typically do not extend beyond the boundaries of that project. Some examples of those responsibilities include:
Defining the scope of the project. The project scope is a detailed outline that includes all activities, resources, timelines, and deliverables. Often, the project manager needs to set client and/or executive expectations regarding the scope to ensure that a successful project outcome is realistic.
Monitoring each project task. Project managers need to be certain that team members are focused on the correct step of the project and working toward completion on time.
Managing project resources. Almost all projects have limited resources, and project managers need to be careful to utilize those resources responsibly to ensure it is enough for every team member to use for the duration of the project timeline.
Communicating. Project managers need to be experienced communicators, as they are responsible not only for communicating goals and tasks to their team members but corresponding with executives and clients. Communication is a vital component of project management, and project managers should expect to be communicating in a variety of ways for much of their working hours.
Predicting challenges. No project is without obstacles, and project managers are responsible for foreseeing those obstacles and devising solutions to overcome them.
Documenting project progress. Using project management tools, project managers need to record every step of the project process with notes that they can utilize in the future to make similar projects go more smoothly.
Working toward top quality. Achieving established goals should be the big-picture motivation for project managers, but project managers should also strive to deliver above and beyond expectations as much as possible.
In contrast to the responsibilities listed above, general business managers tend to focus on general activities, making business decisions that affect the organization overall. General management is a continuous process, whereas project management is temporary, lasting only as long as individual project timelines allow. A general manager has authority over the composition of their staff, but project managers must work with the team members assigned to their project. In almost every way, general management and project management are distinct
Thus, project managers tend to require specific training to ensure they have the skills to lead their project teams to success. New and experienced project managers alike can benefit from engaging in a project management course online, which will provide students with the practical skills necessary to manage projects in the modern business environment.
Project managers are critical members of the business team — and as such, they demand higher salaries than other members of non-managerial staff. With the right training, anyone can find career satisfaction in the project management field.
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