Project Managers

The role of the project manager is to develop the project according to its agreed scope. This is done by following what are regarded as logical and rational processes developed by professional project management bodies. They enable the project manager to exercise control over project activities since their prescriptive nature limits choices in achieving budget, time and scope objectives. Within a project-oriented business environment, however, projects rarely repeat themselves and are far more subject to uncertainty than previously. Being of a transient nature, but important to organisational success, Turner and Mueller (2003) referred to these projects as 'temporary organisations' in which the project manager should take on more of a 'chief executive' role, unlike the previous controlling role.


With an executive/leadership role, project managers give attention to the objectives and strategy of the project and how they link with those at the corporate level. Time is spent on plans and progress reports so that the project's objectives are achieved and/or plans are modified as required. Turner and Mueller (2003: 6) identified cognitive and cathectic roles. Cognitively, the project manager becomes a guider rather than a doer who should be able 'to cope with a variety of (often conflicting) goals and measures and is controlled by a board of directors and the community of stakeholder'. While responsibility was previously to a small number of people, typically the project sponsor and project client, accountability now exists on a broad scale, including to related projects and users.

Cathectically, it is necessary for the project manager to instil in the project team the belief that there is a meaningful purpose for the project. Attention is given to motivational and emotional aspects of behaviour towards achieving high-level project goals and avoiding the pursuit of sub-goals and opportunistic behaviour. There needs to be an ability to distinguish between hygiene and motivational factors (see Chapter 8). Hygiene factors are necessary conditions in performing project work such as providing satisfactory work spaces, but in themselves do not motivate people. Motivational factors, on the other hand, are important in developing superior performance and committing project members to achieving project success. They are reflected in the work itself, the level of responsibility allocated, and prospects for advancement and growth.


To avoid the PMINO syndrome, i.e. the 'Project Manager In Name Only', Heldman (2005) identified a number of areas that require the attention of the project manager. Within them are responsibilities for project risk management.

Accountability and authority

Accountability means responsibility is taken for completing the project on time and within budget. There are tiered levels in which accountability is delegated downwards from the project manager to project team members. A project member with the expertise may be delegated the responsibility of managing project risks, or an outsider may be engaged should complexity demand this. Necessary authority is provided in the project charter. Authority is given for making project decisions, assigning tasks, choosing team members, managing performance and removing members.

Unclear expectations

Misunderstanding can arise when the project sponsor is not able or willing to communicate his/her expectations effectively to the project manager. The project manager should expect the project sponsor to be clear in the direction the project should take, to explain the relevant level of authority given to the project manager, to clear the path of obstacles that may present themselves, to secure resources and to resolve conflicts that arise. Expectations for project risk management are difficult to articulate because of the contextual influences on project risk (see Chapter 6) and the varying perceptions of what project risk is (see Chapter 7).

Uncontrolled vendors

Risk is introduced by project vendors because, as the saying goes, the vendor has the best interests of the vendor at heart. The project manager needs to ensure that vendors don't take over the project, but at the same time that vendor and project staff work together and vendor feedback is taken seriously. Vendor risk is also present in the performance of vendors when they supply the project with equipment, material and services.

Lack of project management processes

Processes are the foundation of successful projects; they provide the basis from which the project manager and team members work. There should be a deliberate conformance with approaches to identifying inputs, applying tools and techniques and developing outputs for project risk management contained in reputable sources such as PMBOK® (Projed Management Institute 2008) and industry standards. Variations from these norms may cause project risk to be managed ineffectively and inefficiently.

Scope creep

The scope statement defines the project's goals, deliverables and resource requirements. Scope risk manifests itself in issues that make it difficult to meet the project's expectations. Should the goal be too ambitious in terms of deliverables and skill requirements, for instance, the risk of not meeting it or partially meeting it is a realistic possibility.

Uncontrolled changes

Project schedules lay out the tasks, responsibilities and budgets for the project. Schedule risk occurs when schedules are changed deliberately or by chance. The former requires project change management procedures to be followed, while the latter can cause unexpected disruptions to the project.

Checklist: Responsibilities of Project Managers for Project Risk Management

• Do project managers interact with project sponsors on project risk management?

• Do project managers provide effective leadership to the project team?

• Are project managers accountable for project risk management?

• Do project managers have authority over project risk activities?

• Do project managers control vendor risks?

• Do project managers follow accepted project risk management practices?

• Do project managers manage the risk of scope creep?

• Do project managers manage the risk of uncontrolled project changes?

• Are project managers familiar with accepted criteria for project success, including project risk management?

• Do project managers use key success criteria to measure project success, including project risk management?

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >