The Job of the Project Manager



Robert Youker

(Formerly of the World Bank Institute)  

Maryland, USA



For any organization and for any project manager it is vitally important to know what are the specific duties or Terms of Reference for the Project Manager, what tasks he or she must perform and what is their authority and responsibility that should be documented in a Project Brief or Project Charter. Yet in the literature of Project Management there are few references or specific examples of these much needed details. This paper presents examples of three key documents relating to the Project Managers job. The contents are appropriate in any project where a fairly high degree of “ceremony” is required to keep proper track of all responsibilities. While these three documents serve different purposes, there are obviously overlaps, as well as similarities and differences between them:

  1. The Project Manager’s on-the-job tasks
  2. A list of duties or Terms of Reference and
  3. A Project Charter defining organizational relationships.

Document #1 is a list of tasks organized by the typical sequence of activities on a project. The list has been derived from the titles of twelve modules contained in a training package on Managing the Implementation of Development Projects developed for the World Bank Institute. The list assumes that the Project Manager was not appointed until the start of the Implementation Phase and so has not previously been involved in project preparation activities.

Document #2 is a sample list of the Duties or Terms of Reference (TOR) for a Project Manager. It is less detailed than the on-the-job tasks list and is organized by topic rather than by chronology. The content would vary by organization and specific project but the basic content would be the same. The list should be useful in recruiting Project Managers and defining their job responsibilities, typically in a job description.

Document #3 is a sample of a Project Charter defining the authority and responsibility of a Project Manager. It is primarily intended to establish the role and responsibility of the Project Manager vis-à-vis the functional managers in the organization in a matrix structure. Again the details would be different for different organizations and specific project situations.

I hope that these three documents will serve as drafts for organizations preparing their own Checklists, Terms of Reference and Project Charters.

Document #1: On-the-job tasks for the Project Manager

This Document #1 is a list of tasks organized according to the typical sequence of activities on a project. The list assumes that the Project Manager was only appointed at the start of the Implementation Phase and so is not familiar with any of the previous activities. Hence, the heading for the first step is to study the existing documentation and find out what the project is all about.

As I said, these documents are part of the World Bank Institute’s, Managing the Implementation of Development Projects, and it is available as a Resource Kit for Instructors on CD-ROM. For information please contact John Didier at [email protected]. The kit is divided into Modules each of which include very detailed list of tasks that form useful checklist for the Project Manager, the project team and the rest of the organization including functional managers.

The twelve Modules are as follows and their respective detailed activities are presented in subsequent pages:

  1. Understanding the Project and Project Management
  2. Structuring the Project Organization
  3. Building the Team
  4. Analyzing the Project Context
  5. Refining Objectives, Scope, and Other Project Parameters
  6. Preparing the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
  7. Planning and Scheduling with the Critical Path Method
  8. Obtaining Management Approval and Support
  9. Designing Control and Reporting Systems: Cost, Time, Resources, and Scope (including Performance and Quality)
  10. Organizing Procurement
  11. Executing and Controlling the Work
  12. Terminating the Project.

Module 1: Understanding the Project and Project Management

This Module’s activities are:


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper is an update of a paper prepared for the June 2002 IPMA Conference in Berlin. It contains content from various training materials developed for the World Bank. The current paper is copyright to Robert Youker, © 2007. Republished with author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Youker, R. (2018). The Job of the Project Manager; Proceedings, IPMA 2002 World Congress, Berlin, Germany; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue VIII – August.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/pmwj73-Aug2018-Youker-job-of-project-manager-second-edition.pdf


About the Author

Robert Youker

World Bank (retired)
Maryland, USA





Robert (Bob) Youker is an independent trainer and consultant in Project Management with more than forty years of experience in the field.  He is retired from the World Bank where he developed and presented six week project management training courses for the managers of major projects in many different countries. He served as the technical author for the bank on the Instructors Resource Kit on CD ROM for a five week training course on Managing the Implementation of Development Projects.  He has written and presented more than a dozen papers at the Project Management Institute and the International Project Management Association (Europe) conferences many of which have been reprinted in the Project Management Institute publications and the International Journal of Project Management (UK).

Mr. Youker is a graduate of Colgate University, the Harvard Business School and studied for a doctorate in behavioral science at George Washington University.  His project management experience includes new product development at Xerox Corporation and project management consulting for many companies as President of Planalog Management Systems from 1968 to 1975.  He has taught in Project Management Courses for AMA, AMR, AED, ILI, ILO, UCLA, University of Wisconsin, George Washington University, the Asian Development Bank and many other organizations. He developed and presented the first Project Management courses in Pakistan, Turkey, China and Africa for the World Bank.

A few years ago Mr. Youker conducted Project Management training in Amman, Jordan financed by the European Union for 75 high level civil servants from Iraq who implemented the first four World Bank projects in Iraq. He is a former Director of PMI, IPMA and asapm, the USA member organization of IPMA. Most recently he has been consulting for the US Government Millennium Challenge Corporation on project management training in Africa.  Bob can be contacted at [email protected]

To see more works by Bob Youker, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/robert-bob-youker/