PMO Symposium 2017 – Project Leaders + Coordinator (art and science)

Seth Norburg of Caterpillar spoke at a “lightning talk” this morning, a short-format breakout session. In his session, he talked about how they split project management duties in all projects between what they call a Project Leader, and a Project Coordinator. This is particularly interesting for teams that have both PM’s and PC’s, and are trying to figure out how to best utilize both.

In Caterpillar, they intentionally split these roles on all projects. Their logic is that, if they don’t, the Leader too often gets tied up in the project details, and the project goes off track. By engaging a Coordinator to do the “head’s down” work, the Project Leader is free to keep a “head’s up” view, ensuring the project stays on track and realizes its expected benefits.

The Project Leader / Manager is responsible for the overall success of the project, and manages the “art” side. Their responsibilities include:

  • Manage project to achieve its objectives
  • Acquire resources
  • Accountable for project execution
  • Monitor project performance KPI’s
  • Identify issues and take corrective actions
  • Provide technical expertise and direction, and coaching
  • Business partner relationship management
  • Communicate to stakeholders
  • Manage conflicts and crisis

The Project Coordinator takes direction from the Project Leader, and is responsible for execution, as directed by the Leader. They are the “scientist.”  This includes:

  • Following established PMO methodology and standards
  • Facilitate project planning, and manage execution to the plan
  • Project creation and validation
  • Project analysis, management and control (critical path, risk)
  • Project report generation and distribution
  • Project planning updates and maintenance
  • Project administrative functions, including financials

In this strategy, Coordinators are typically assigned on multiple projects.  With this approach, a clear definition of roles and responsibilities is key for success.

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