Strategists vs. Project Managers

Strategists vs. Project Managers

All Cantilever projects (both internal and client-facing) have a designated Strategist and Project Manager. The Strategist is the “Directly Responsible Individual” of the project. The buck stops with them, and therefore, they have control over how they want to do things. Often, a strategist will be in a leadership role, but anyone at the company can be a strategist, even an outside consultant. The PM is not responsible for setting the vision for the project, but is responsible for ensuring that the team works according to our methodology. The PM keeps everyone playing by the same rules.

Solving Problems

When it comes to client work, the problem we solve best is that their website is not delivering the results they need. Sub-versions of that problem are things like:

  • Our website is broken
  • We want a new feature to accomplish a specific goal
  • Our website has a bug

The Strategist’s job is to make sure this problem is crystal clear, and that the context and reason is also clear. They determine the goals of the project and are responsible for taking the problem to the team to solve. They can bring their own ideas too, but it is not their job to solve the problem (designing the website, creating the spreadsheet, writing the code, etc).

The Strategist hands off clarified problems to the team, usually in the form of Asana todos. A given project may contain one overall problem, or many smaller ones. On a large project, the “problems” are usually just pieces of work that we commonly need to do. On an ongoing website support project, the problems will be individual things that need addressing. The solution might be to write new code, use a plugin, or a third-party service. The strategist doesn’t decide that, the team does.

The PM is in the middle of it all, monitoring this process, and ensuring that it is progressing properly. The PM makes sure that we are meeting our commitments, and takes care of all the logistics required to run the project successfully. The PM should be intimately aware of all the developments taking place on their projects and regularly reports back to the client and strategist.



  • Becomes a partner with the client/stakeholder and has a keen understanding of their business realities and how we could solve them.
  • Leads discussions with the client to establish their problems and opportunities and brainstorm how we could solve them
  • Handles new requests for work from clients. Briefs the team on the problems we need to solve and their potential ideas for solving them
  • Proactively reviews the client’s business and site results and makes suggestions about changes we could make to deliver value.
  • Takes accountability for the team’s success. Collaborates with Strategists, PMs and Developers in order to deliver excellent work.
  • Establishes a vision that is informed by research, and linked to business outcomes.
  • Establishes high standards for the work and approves work before it goes to clients
  • Is comfortable presenting ideas and concepts to the clients and guides designers to do as well.
  • Hands off problems to the team. Helps Project Managers make tasks clarified and actionable.
  • Reviews the solutions the team comes up with and validates that the problem has been solved.

Project Manager

  • Sets up all the project systems (Harvest, Asana, etc)
  • Translates the schedule into the systems
  • Coordinates fitting the project schedule into the Company-wide weekly plan
  • Monitors the tasks and helps if they get stuck or blocked
  • Sets up all internal and external meetings, using their judgment to decide on an appropriate cadence for the project
  • Runs the meetings, setting the agenda, taking notes, and following up with the recording.
  • Creates the tasks that the team is going to execute, and clarifies them to make them actionable, collaborating with the Strategists/Designers/Devs
  • For client projects, creates Master Services Agreements/ Scopes of Work (MSAs/SOWs) according to the vision determined by the Strategist and the team and agreed by the client
  • For client projects, Creates and monitors invoices
  • Handles logistical needs during the project, such as system access, licenses, software, travel, etc.

Artisans (Designers, Devs, etc)

  • Helps PMs clarify work, adding detail from their areas of expertise. Provides guidance on how to break down the work.
  • Takes ownership of tasks according to individual skillset, availability, preference, etc.
  • Confirms or revises estimates and timelines based on knowledge of the work to be done
  • Executes the work using their skills
  • Communicates with the client or internal stakeholders to work through questions and present completed work for discussion/review
  • Requests approvals from peers, QA, clients, etc based on the approval requirements specified by the strategist