How to Manage a Project


Project Organisation and Responsibilities - Overview

Project Organisation Map

Getting clarity of responsibilities in the way project are managed is absolutely key. The above chart represents the "chain of command" of a project, and the key roles which may be assigned in projects. The following are brief pen-pictures of these roles.

Project Manager

The Project Manager has day-to-day responsibility for management of the project.

The prime role is to ensure that the project as a whole produces the required outputs and outcomes, within the timescales and resources available.

Project Sponsor

The Project Sponsor looks after the project on behalf of the organisation. In that sense is responsible for ensuring that the project is completed within the terms of reference and achieves the desired outcomes and benefits.

In some projects the sponsor will be a single individual, in some it is the line manager of the Project Manager, for others it will be a group - a project board or similar.

Project Team

People who are significantly involved in the project on a regular basis, and who may be involved in key contributions or decisions about the project outputs, strategy or tactics.

Common issues here revolve around their commitment and the time that they can invest in the project, particularly if they are involve in other projects or in day to day policy work.


People who are required to make a contribution at some stage in the project but who are not likely to be involved on a regular basis.

Examples include statisticians, lawyers, IT specialists, contractors, HR specialists, and trainers. Since they often work on several other projects at the same time, common issues revolve around their availability and ability to deliver their contribution at the time it is needed.

Project Board

For some projects, a Project Board is needed as the Project Sponsor. This is particularly true in major capital and IT projects where the Board is formed to represent at managerial level the business, user and supplier interests of the project and provide overall direction and guidance to the project. Key points are:

  • They tend to be most suited to projects where time and finance are key project issues.
  • Difficulties can arise, particularly in policy areas, in that the Board can become too large and cumbersome, with too many political conflicts within the Board.

Steering Group

For some projects, particularly politically sensitive policy ones, a Steering Group reporting to the Project Sponsor can be valuable. This will be formed from key stakeholders affected by the project (e.g. service users, special interests groups, representative groups). Their input relating to the project outcomes is essential but they could distract the project if they were directly in the chain of command.

  • Such groups focus mainly on the content of the outputs/outcomes (Will this regulation be overly restrictive?) and not so much on time scales and costs. In that sense, their role is less executive than that of a Project Board.
  • They may not meet regularly but come together when necessary - possibly at an end-of-stage review or as a "sounding-board" for proposals.

Reference or Advisory Groups

To some extent these can fulfil a similar role to that of a Steering Group except that it is clearly a much more advisory role, probably with less influence.

Often they are formed by and report to the Project Manager rather than the Project Sponsor.


Note. A  fuller description of these roles and responsibilities can be accessed by clicking the links to "Project Management Concepts" is the side panel to the left.