For the uninitiated the term Project Management might sound like an exotic, uncharted and illusive idea. After all, in the majority of the cases, our encounter with the term ‘project’, let alone ‘project management’ is when we hear in the radio, watch on the television, or read in the newspaper about a major initiative that has just gone way over-budget, has delivered way too late or blatantly failed to meet its prescribed objectives.
With the above in mind it is but rational to assume that projects are those complicated ‘things’ that large companies or governments are engaged with. They will usually be very expensive and require substantial time and effort to complete. They are – almost as a matter of definition – complex organizational endeavors that require specialized and highly skilled people to progress, let along complete successfully.
Let’s spend a few moments exploring the above conjectures.
Project management requires the application of a variety of skills:
1. Integrating different disciplines into delivering a cohesive solution (integration management)
2. Controlling the delivery to a defined scope (scope management)
3. Ensuring things are delivered on time (time management)
4. Ensuring funds are spent in a planned manner (cost management)
5. Making sure the quality of the work is consistent and adequate (quality management)
6. Managing a team in an efficient and effective way (human resources management)
7. Issuing the correct level of communication at the right time and to the appropriate recipients (communication management)
8. Anticipating problems and preparing plans to address them (risk management)
9. Dealing with vendors and suppliers in the most cost-effective way (procurement management)
10. Managing customer expectations (stakeholder management)
“Hang on”, I can hear you murmur, “we do these things as part of our daily business operations”?!
At its core, the act of project management is not different to any other business endeavor. As a matter of fact, if you can cast your memory back to your school days, we were working on projects when we were still in school. We have chemistry projects (mixing some compounds together and registering their impact), history projects (analyzing a historical event and following up on its consequences), an art project (where we ended up messing up our room and made our mum upset). We’ve always been surrounded by projects but somehow, on the way to adulthood we simply forgot.
The only characteristic that distinguishes a project from a normal business activity is the very simple fact that projects, by definition, are time constrained. They have a defined start and end dates and are therefore a temporary, rather than an on-going, initiative.
The principles and attitudes implemented as part of the project management discipline are very much relevant to any business operation. While the degree and intensity of some of these principles could vary from those experienced in some high-pressure projects, it does not diminish from the need to properly execute these principles in a ‘normal’ business environment as their contribution to the business success is as much relevant in non-project as much as in project settings.
Think about it!
This article was originally published as a guest post in Cornerstone Dynamics