Projects come in many shapes and sizes. Project Management came about initially from the military and from heavy industry. It was generic term to cover all the planning and management processes required to achieve a specific result. For example the production of ships, heavy plant, aerospace, buildings and feats of civil engineering etc.
Most recently project management has come to include a wider range of tasks including implementation of new technologies or computer networks, the delivery of product to meet a specific client brief, product development processes, launches and many more.
Here are some definitions of a project:
“A plan, scheme, undertaking for the presentation of results at a specific time.”
Concise Oxford Dictionary
“A commitment to produce a specific result by a specific date and time, with the necessary action
broken down into clear and manageable steps.”
Surya Lovejoy, A systematic approach to getting results
“A one time, unique endeavour by people to do something that has not been done that way before.”
Smith B, Effective project administration
“A human endeavour which creates change: is limited in time and scope, has mixed goals and
objectives: involves a variety of resources; and is unique.”
Anderson, Grude, Haug & Turner, goal directed project management
“A complex effort to achieve a specific objective within a schedule and budget target, which typically
cuts across organisational lines, is unique and is usually not repetitive within the organisation.”
Cleland and King, systems analysis and project management
So where Do Projects Come From?
Projects arise from one of two sources either from problems or opportunities. Problems are nuisances which get in the way of our everyday work, they prevent us from achieving the results we desire and are the cause of conflict in the workplace. Despite this, problems are also an opportunity to refine, develop or generally improve your effectiveness as an organisation. For example:
Complaints from customers as to the service of your front of house team at a hotel chain, could lead to the following projects:
- a review of working practices
- investment in new technology
- delivery of staff training
- a customer education programme to manage expectations
- implementing a new administration and check-in system
Opportunities also create projects. If you have ever identified a better way to do something or a niche in the market only to watch someone else implement your solution, then you have been beaten not by a more creative person but by a better project manager.
New product launches are often the result of a series of projects:
- research market requirements
- prototype designs
- Sourcing finance
- finding a manufacturer
- devising an advertising campaign
- creating a launch event
Whether the result of a problem or opportunity the project will remain merely a good intention unless it has a clear business case and is properly scoped.
All projects regardless of how complex, may be broken down into four stages:
This is the process of turning a task, a problem or an opportunity into a project. During the scoping stage, the project manager must clearly define the objectives and outcomes of the project and to define the parameters of time, resources and cost. They may also create a basic strategy and skills profile initially.
Where the project is broken down into a series of key activities and sub-tasks. Objectives are agreed with individual team members along with budgeted resources. The plan is usually presented in a visual manner which is used during the implementation stage.
Where the project is actioned, teams are briefed and begin to carry out assigned task and responsibilities. The project manager’s role is to ensure that the team is working well to deliver each milestone and to take corrective action where problems arise. Generally project managers create a Project Initiation Document to ensure a road map to success.
The results produced by the project team are reviewed against the objectives. The project is analysed at each stage to find what lessons can be learnt for future similar projects and refine the current project. The findings are reported to senior managers in the appropriate manner.
Check out my following posts for helpful tips and project management downloads.
Defining Project Scope
Project Planning 1 – Identify Key Events
Project Planning 2 – Identify Contributing Tasks (Work Breakdown Structure)
Project Planning 3 – Write Activity Specifications
Project Planning 4 – Assign Roles (RASCI)