Understanding the Role of Project Director vs Project Manager

When it comes to project management, there are plenty of definitions available. You need to be able to understand these definitions to get a feel of understanding how projects of all sizes are handled in an organization.

For example, you need to understand the difference between a project director and a project manager to understand how a project is handled by professionals in different roles. Remember, for successful and timely delivery of projects, it is important that right people are selected for the right positions and for right programs or projects. This is where understanding the difference between a project director and a project manager is important.

Understanding the Concept – Project Director vs Project Manager

Mature project executives and organizations that have an excellent project accountability track record, generally make use of complementary roles in all possible combinations. The idea behind this concept is to achieve desirable project outcomes and manage cost effectively. Accordingly, some of the roles that may be created in an organization are – Program Officer or Program Coordinator, Program Director, Project Officer or Project Coordinator, Project Manager, and Project Director.

Let us now look into the roles of a project director and project manager separately to get an insight on how projects are handled differently in an organization.

Role of Project Director

When you are selected for the position of a project director in an organization, you are basically taking on the role of a true leader. However, this role is basically at a tactical or strategic level. There are quite a few things a project director understands and takes on as a part of his/her role. Understanding these things will help you know the difference between the role of a project director vs project manager even better.

Among different things a project director needs to understand are the context of the organization in a broader perspective and all the changes that take place outside the realm of the operational area and the program. Also, as a part of the role of a project director, he/she needs to have the project approach, timing, and impact all aligned properly simultaneously. Usually, these roles are given to experienced and proven project leaders that have project implementation experience.

Ideally, this professional also has to be one who provides advisory services when required. Being an experienced leader, the executive team does not need to supervise or provide direction to the project director. In fact, the project director takes upon himself/herself to provide coaching, guidance, direction, and leadership to the project team and project manager in relation to various issues, risks, activities, general management, and project approach.

Role of Project Manager

A project manager, on the other hand, is the one who looks after the management side of a project or project team. In this role, the manager is required to implement agreed approaches and defined plans, without necessarily taking on the responsibility of ongoing refinement. Normally, you’ll find project managers working with Gantt charts that comprise various tasks and templates for monitoring the progress of projects against the set plan. In addition to this, it may contain additional documents like status reports, project initiation document, project closure documents, and project plans. Unlike project directors, project managers may need executive guidance, coaching, and reviewing after initial drafting.

Understanding the different roles in an organization gives one a clear idea of how activities are organized and how reporting relationships work. This clarity is imperative for the successful execution of any role.