Nowadays, with the development of project management, project success has been defined clearly. A definition of project success from Lock is that if the project finish on time, within budget and in good quality, the project is considered as a successful project (Lock, 2007). However, our understanding about the role of project manager is unclear. Different people hold various viewpoints about it. According to Lewis, people have a vague understanding of what is the role of project manager, because a majority of project managers are promoted from other jobs such as engineers or technologists and so on (Lewis, 2007).
Some individuals think that the role of the project manager is to command and control. Is it enough for a project manager who is as a “single point of responsibility” (Burke, 2007) to manager a project? Definitely, the answer is no. How much authority do project managers exactly have? Firstly, let us about the job of project managers and their authority. Being a project manager is a difficult task, because the responsibility of them is heavy, but they are just given small authority.
Kerzner said that in typical organizations, it is a common phenomenon that project managers request permissions to control company resources from top management. Additionally, the relationship between project manager and line manager is more like a copartner relationship rather than a rank relationship. In some way, project manager services for the line manager, because line manager hold the uses rights of company resources. Project manager, therefore, have no capital to control and command line manager.
In most cases, when some issues occur or some decisions are waiting for determining, project managers negotiate with line manager rather than control and command. (Kerzner, 2001, p. 9) From the position of project manager in organizations and the relationship between project manager and line manager, we can see that even thought as “single point of responsibility”, project manager has limited authority, which means “that the role of project manager is to command and control” is inadequate. Actually, Project managers do need to command and control.
As I stated above, project manager is responsible for the project, which means that a project manager needs to control the project’ process for obtaining a successful completion of the project as well as to command the stakeholders to follow the right path to realize the project’ objective. But it is important to emphasize that “command and control”is a purpose, not a process. Just like Bull said that there is essential difference between a dictator and a leader, a dictator gives command to people for doing something, but a leader inspires people to let them want to do things.
The role of project manager should be a leader, not a dictator (Bull, 2010). Lewis also thought that the biggest part of project manager’s job is dealing with people. Even though project manager has quite little authority, it is not zero (Lewis 2010). Therefore, for project managers, the biggest challenge should be how to your limited authority effectively. To optimize the use of the authority, project managers need to build their leadership.
Instead of using your authority to build your leadership, project managers should use their people skill which involves personality, management skill and communication skill. (Lewis, 2007, p. 27) So, “command and control”is a purpose, not a process. Which means that project manager should be a leader, not a dictator. More important thing than “command and control” As Lewis said that project managers’ biggest part of job is to deal with people, so a role of project manager should be communication coordinator (Lewis, 2007).
According to Jha, 90 percent of project managers’ working hours are occupied by communication time, so it is obvious that it is crucial for project managers to have a good communication skill (Jha, 2010). More importantly, a project manager’s communication skill strongly impact on the outcome of the project. Verma emphasized that during a project life cycle, communication problems should be paid close attention, because such communication problems may create conflicts, disagreement, and misunderstandings. Many projects’ failure is due to those communication problems.
Therefore, it is a total disaster for a project which has a project manager with a poor communication skill. Effective communication can create good relationship, trust and motivation which can help project managers to obtain supports from different individuals in the project. From this standpoint, because of the importance of communication in the project environment, a project manager’ role should be identified as a communication coordinator which requires a good communication skill (Verma, 1996). Other role of project manager The job of project manager is not an easy one.
It is not just simply to command and control. Just as Kerzner said in his book, Planning is a primary part of project managers’ job, a good project plan enables the whole project to operate perfectly. In order to do this, a project manager should have a good management skill which involves risk management, cost management, time management and quality management. However, perfect project plans are rare, because there are many uncertainties during a project life cycle (Kerzner 2001). In this point, the role of project manager should be a plan agency.
Although project managers have no right to control the company resources, they must plan them in order to accomplish the ultimate success of the project. Conclusion As “single point of responsibility” (Burke, 2007), project managers shoulder heavy burdens. Project managers need to control the process of project and command the involved people such as functional employees for meeting the projects’ objective. However, the authority of project managers is quite limited, so in most cases, project managers need to ask for permissions from top management to control the resources, and consult with line mangers to make a decision.
Because of a lack of authority, having a good communication skill is crucial for project managers. One the one hand, it can create good relationship between project managers and other stakeholders. On the other hand, it is a key for project managers to become a leader. Moreover, project managers’ job is not easy. Planning is a hard and important part of the job. As a result, some people think that “the role of manager is to control and command” is inappropriate.