Define Project Management

Start with the basics!

Define Project Management

Start with the basics!

Conventionally, if you were asked to define project management you could argue that it is the planning organising and controlling of resources, to successfully complete a specific project by meeting the original objectives set.

Alternatively, and perhaps more succinctly, you could define project management as: making a project happen successfully. In this article we will explore the contrasting requirements of managing a project compared to managing day-to-day operations. We will ask how you can define project management in a way that recognises the project’s value to you, and to your organisation.

Project management is about the management process and skills needed to manage a project. It therefore helps to first understand what is meant by a project.

What is a project?
  • Typically, a project has a definite beginning and end, in contrast to the day job which usually is an on-going process.
  • A project changes something in the organization. It usually incorporates non-standard activities, because it is creating something new or different.
  • Similarly with day job operations, projects have budgets and allocated resources. However when starting a project, it’s a good idea to use a project management checklist particularly to check that the resources and budget are actually in place.
  • Projects also have a more complicated set of relationships with people than conventional day jobs. People are involved in a project in a variety of ways. Some may be full-time for a specific time; more often some will contribute part of their time, and the people working together may have come together for the first time on the particular project.
  • A project manager may need to negotiate the involvement of people managed by other managers in the organisation.
  • Then there are the wider relationships of the various stakeholders and those who initiated the project in the first place.

There are therefore a wide range of demanding challenges posed by managing a project that are often not experienced when managing a normal operation or process.

How Do You Define Project Management?

Define project managementA typical definition of project management often misses the personal aspect of how you might define project management. Tom Peters suggests that we all should regard more and more of what we do as projects; opportunities to perform, to build our own track record and to find projects that make a difference.

So in defining project management for yourself, it is well worthwhile considering how you can make an impact with a project. Peters calls such projects “WOW” projects – special projects.

If we add this notion of how we gain benefit from projects to our understanding then we might define project management as:

The bringing together of people with the right skills to develop something different, or new, using effective management processes: doing it on time, to the agreed budget and to meet expectations. In doing so inspiring the project team and producing something special for those who will benefit from the project.

The implications of such a definition are that if you manage a project it is likely that:

  • You will be managing something which is less predictable than a normal operation to manage.
  • Your skills in managing and motivating people will be in demand as you may well be leading people who report to others in the organization.
  • You may also have to work around or outside of the normal organization structure to achieve the project outcomes.

Finally projects should result in things being better, and valuable improvements made. There are numerous ways to define a project: make sure that you don’t miss out defining it as an opportunity.

In our article: What is project management?, we explore how our view of project might be changing as more and more project management becomes a part of the day job for many managers.

Managing Projects and Change

This is one of the articles and tips in our managing change series. For some practical tips on how to manage change, look at our great-value guides (below). These include some excellent tools to help you change yourself, and manage change at work.

The best way to use these is to buy our Managing Projects and Change bundle, available from the store. We’ve bundled together five e-guides, available at half the normal price!

Read the guides in this order and use the tools in each. Then change it – on time, in budget!

5 guides, 136 pages, 25 tools, for half price!

Looking for more management resources?

Try our great value e-guides

What a terrific resource site!

I am currently producing learning materials to support the Institute of Leadership and Management’s VRQ at Level 4 and would like to incorporate some of your stuff into the workbooks.

Tony - UK

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