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Monday, July 11, 2005

What is a Project?

As the readers of this blog know, I try to cover the basics of Project Management. As project managers, we get in trouble when we try to complicate things. In my career, I have worked for many different types and sizes of organizations. Some have embraced Project Management and others have made excuses so as not to be constrained by what they believe is a process that slows things down (adds cost and overhead). I have preached the same message for years. Project Management is designed to help reduce or eliminate rework and surprises at the end of a project.

So why don’t some organizations see the value of Project Management? Usually it is because they do not understand the benefits of Project Management, they do not trust the Project Managers they currently have, or the ones they have encountered in the past. OK, we can accept that, however, what we should never accept is the idea that Project Management just adds cost and overhead.

We need to educate those around us about the difference between projects and other organizational work. Senior management needs to realize the fact that work is basically broken down into two areas: Operations (focused on Maintaining) and Projects (focused on Change). Most organizations do an adequate job of managing their operations; however, my experience (limited as it is) has shown that projects and the support of project management vary greatly.

Every organization has projects; sometimes they are just too busy to realize it. As project managers, we need to keep fighting the good fight of educating the influencers in our organizations about the benefits of Project Management. In addition, we need to realize that the benefits of Project Management are demonstrated in the successful implementation of projects. Do not preach the benefits of Project Management; demonstrate them by walking the walk and talking the talk.

Therefore, to answer our central question and wrap this up, a project is:

A temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service


Constrained by a finite budget

Constrained by a finite timeline (defined start and end date)

Composed of interrelated activities

Focused on attaining one or more clearly defined objectives

The last point needs to be stressed. Without clearly defined and agreed upon objectives your project is doomed to fail from the start. I would also add that your project does not have a chance for success unless you have an engaged, influential, and respected executive in the role of project sponsor.

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