Project Director is a role that not a lot of organizations give a lot of thought or attention towards. The Project Manager and Project Sponsor roles are very well defined and utilized but what about a Project Director? This post will explore what this role is and how it can benefit your organization.
PM Guidance and Support
First and foremost, the role of a Project Director should be to provide guidance and support to the Project Manager. It’s the Project Manager’s job to ensure that the project is successful (by the measure that your organization measures success) but the Project Manager will need help along the way – and not just from their project team. The Project Director is someone who will have experience in project delivery as well as the ability to coach and mentor the Project Manager and assist in navigating the more challenging parts of the project. When the Project Manager encounters an issue that they cannot resolve or do not know how to resolve, the Project Director is there to assist in helping solve the problem. The Project Director should also have a good handle on the toolset being used for the project to again, provide that support and guidance to the Project Manager.
Direction and Discipline
The Project Director should be someone who has the experience and expertise in project delivery at your organization and knows your delivery methodology inside and out so that they can provide direction to a less experienced team (including your Project Manager). But in addition to direction, the Project Director can also instill a level of discipline among the team (again, including the Project Manager) to keep the team focused an on track. This is especially useful in situations where you have a less experienced team working on the project and they perhaps need someone beyond the Project Manager to make sure everyone knows what they are responsible for doing and when.
Every organization will have installed a hierarchy of leadership to help deal with escalations from a project. The Project Sponsor will be the last stop in a line of individuals who will deal with escalations but individuals who typically fill the role of Project Sponsor will be incredibly busy and often do not have a lot of time to dedicate to dealing with escalations or other project issue that a Project Director (assuming this someone has a little more bandwidth) can deal with. Depending on the experience of the Project Manager, the temperament of the customer and even how the project scope is defined can all contribute to the number of escalations that will (or will not) occur during a project. An experienced Project Director is a great first line of defense to deal with escalations that go beyond the Project Manager but can be taken care of before getting on the desk of the Project Sponsor.