If you’re interested in getting a start in project management, you might want to investigate an assignment as a project expeditor or coordinator. Both roles can provide you with experience running a project without burdening you with decision-making or leadership authority before you’ve built up enough expertise to handle those responsibilities.
How organizations assign project leadership is generally dependent on the type of organizational structure the team will operate within. Some companies have project management offices staffed with full-time project managers. This level of project leadership typically has decision-making and resource-management authority. Other companies might assign project leadership on a part-time or temporary basis. These temporary leaders often have little to no authority, and focus only on coordinating or expediting project tasks.
Project coordinators either lead project teams or work under the leadership of a project manager. When leading a project team, a coordinator has less authority than a manager. Think of a project coordinator in the role of a typical department supervisor. This is a hands-on role, working on tasks just like other project team members, except you are given a limited amount of authority in making decisions and directing resources.
The role of a project expeditor is similar to that of a coordinator, but expeditors typically have no authority or extremely limited authority. As an expeditor, you could expect to report progress, problems and questions to organizational leaders responsible for the project, and then count on them to make decisions on informing you how to proceed.
Both project coordinators and project expeditors can expect to do a lot of administrative work. Much of the workday is spent tracking down information, monitoring how and when tasks are being completed, and serving as a central source of communication for project team members and organizational leaders. In addition to developing a project plan, also be prepared to develop a communication plan defining channels, methods and frequency of communication among team members and with management.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.