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What Does a Project Manager Do?

A project manager writing on a whiteboard.

Day-to-day happenings at many jobs don’t typically require a lot of oversight. You complete your tasks, which may or may not be part of a larger project.

However, the more people working on a single project, the more complex coordination is needed to execute that project. The smaller tasks add up, and can derail even the best-laid plans.

Most companies with projects like these hire the glue that keeps it all together—the project manager.

Project Manager Responsibilities and Duties

If the boss is the captain or the coach of the football team—on the field with you, assigning positions and duties, and providing feedback—then the project manager is the offensive coordinator. The minutiae of each individual’s performance isn’t their main concern, but an effective strategy is.

Project manager roles and responsibilities do involve monitoring people, but the goal is to ensure that the project is progressing. Project managers aren’t often limited to a single project, and can oversee several at the same time.

While their responsibilities will vary depending on the nature and progress of the project, most project managers share many similar functions.


Project managers get to answer the question, “when does this need to be done?” Whether the project has a strict deadline or is ongoing, scheduling is incredibly important. They can adjust deadlines to ensure that everything can be done efficiently while also being up to standards.

For ongoing projects, the scheduling is done according to the scope of work, or what was promised to the client. How many deliverables need to be turned over in a week, month or quarter? Is the new product being developed at the right pace?

Scheduling also applies to internal and client meetings.

A thumb tack marking a date on a calendar.

Monitoring and Documenting Progress

The bosses and clients need to know that things are progressing in the project. Most project managers will utilize different softwares and apps to list tasks and track progress.

They don’t need to know all of the details of each task, just how much of the task is complete, and what a given employee needs to complete it.

Problem Solving

If the project isn’t progressing the way it should be, it’s up to the project manager to pinpoint why. Does everyone have the necessary resources? Are expectations clear? Are the deadlines reachable?

The project manager’s finger should be on the pulse to identify any breakdowns that could jeopardize a project. From there, they can tap into their resources to find a solution, such as flexibility on timelines, flexibility on task delegation, or budgeting for more resources and manpower.

Project Management 101: The Four Stages

While these are the main priorities of a project manager, their duties change depending on which stage a project is in.

Generally, projects break down into four stages:

  • Initiating

  • Planning

  • Execution

  • Closure

Project managers are heavily involved every step of the way.

Two people adding sticky notes to a glass.


Initiation is more or less the project kick-off. This is where scope of work is defined, and all who are involved discuss goals and expectations. Project managers will communicate with other leadership on the project and the client about realistic timelines, and coordinate the employees who will be involved.


Once the team has the broad idea for what the project will look like, the real planning can begin.

From here, the project manager can start to coordinate the finer details, including:

  • Scheduling deadlines and meetings

  • Setting tasks

  • Calculating cost and budget

  • Establish lines of communication

The planning stage is for the project manager to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of what needs to be done. Their priority turns to figuring out the best ways to make the project happen.

Execution and Monitoring

Planning seamlessly flows into the execution stage. The project manager is responsible for updating and adjusting everything that was previously sorted out as needed.

They’ll monitor progress on different assignments and track updates. In many cases, they will create progress reports for clients to keep them in the loop about their project.

If questions arise, the project manager is often the primary communicator with clients and/or company leadership.

Closure and Evaluation

If a project has an end, the project manager is responsible for a post mortem report. They’ll ensure that the client has everything that was promised, but internally will begin an evaluation of how the project went.

Like most assessments, they’ll ask questions of what went well, and what can be improved and how.

A corporate worker comparing content on his laptop and clipboard.

What Type of People Are Successful Project Managers?

As you can tell, project manager skills involve a lot of organization and initiative. As with all jobs, some people are more predisposed than others to be successful at it.

Are you ready to see if being a project manager is in your future? Take our four week course on Practical Project Management and learn how to hone in on your skills. You’ll learn how to successfully execute the responsibilities of each phase, and the best practices for project management.

Skills of Successful Project Managers

Besides technical skills and familiarity with the client and their own company, successful project managers tend to possess specific soft skills that keep them on track.

Though they aren’t necessarily the “boss” and may not have any direct reports, they still need to show leadership. If they can’t inspire their peers to stay on task, the project may not be delivered on time.

They have to be clear and efficient communicators. It’s up to the client manager to facilitate interactions between clients and the team, and also within the team. Everyone needs to understand fully what is needed and what is expected of them.

Most successful project managers will also show these traits:

  • The ability to delegate

  • Problem solving

  • Critical and creative thinking

  • Good time management

  • Budget-conscious

  • Client-focused

Above all, project managers need to be able to feel empowered to keep the team on track through collaboration with the team and other leadership.

Two coworkers presenting ideas with a whiteboard.

Types of Project Managers

How the project manager utilizes these skills depends on the type of project manager that they are. These types are differentiated by how they show their traits and skills in order to view different opportunities and execute their strategy.

  • Executor—They adhere to the business’ goals and objectives. This project manager “executes” established strategies based on the previously defined needs of their organization. They look for opportunities for growth based on what has already worked.

  • Expert—Rather than focusing on strategy, the expert focuses on numbers. They believe that a change in strategy is necessary in order to pursue growth, and use quantitative evidence to support this claim. They’ll develop and manage a project based on other measurable opportunities.

  • Prophet—The prophet, like the expert, doesn’t adhere to established strategy, but neither do they rely on quantitative evidence. They manage a project based on how they envision growth. They develop the strategy based on the end result.

  • Gambler—This project manager identifies strategies that haven’t yet panned out, but show potential. They use their critical thinking and problem solving skills to fill in the gaps in order to produce results. While many project managers identify as one of these types, and perform well in their specialties, many can utilize the different traits of each type based on the project, client, and the best-suited methodology.

Dive into Project Management

It’s a lucrative skill to have, whether you’re seeking a career in project management or not. The Regional Economic Development Center at Yavapai College is offering a one-month project management crash course to learn all the skills you need to elevate your career.

Learn more about how the REDC can help you reach your full potential, through different practical courses, career resources, and job fairs. Get started today.

Home LinkThe REDC is a Division of Yavapai College.Go to yc.edu

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