Just as events throughout history have required management and leadership, many have required what has become known as project management. A project is a temporary undertaking to produce a unique output subject to limitations such as time, people, and other resources. Projects have occurred all through recorded history. Construction projects have included the pyramids of Egypt, the great cathedrals of Europe, and the temple at Machupicchu. Research and development projects included the creation of metals during the Bronze Age and the development of war implements during many ages. Projects were conducted to wage war and to build civilizations. These examples all qualify as projects since they were temporary endeavors that created unique outputs subject to limitations. It is highly unlikely that the people performing these projects shared lessons about what worked since they were generally separated by distance, time, and war. Because there was no open sharing, however, project management did not exist as a formal discipline.
The resulting lack of professionalism in early project management can be highlighted by asking questions about the success of these projects: Was the output produced efficiently and effectively? Were any of the limitations exceeded? Were the "customers" satisfied? What did the stakeholders think of the project? While we may never know the answers to these questions, we can guess on some of them. Some of these projects required the efforts of thousands of people (often slaves). Some required large amounts of time—more than a century in some cases. Many of the project participants (especially slaves) were probably far from satisfied with the work demands placed on them. The outputs of some of the projects were probably successful, but the outputs of others certainly were not.
Management principles that had developed previously applied generally to ongoing operations. Projects are different in that, once their objective is achieved, they are (or should be) disbanded. The temporary nature of projects created different kinds of management challenges that were increasingly not being met using traditional management principles alone.
By the middle of the twentieth century, many began to believe that there must be a better way to achieve the desired results of projects. With the advent of World War II, the demands of war required that projects be completed very rapidly. Shortages of people and materials required the careful use of resources. In 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched a satellite, Sputnik. This event signaled the need for a wide range of new developments that are collectively known as the Space Race. The desire for a successful moon landing translated into a very large project with specific goal and time limitations. The need for project management became crystal clear.
In 1969 the Project Management Institute (PMI ) was organized to allow project managers to share experiences. The premise behind PMI is that projects share certain similarities regardless of size, complexity, or industry, and that the skills needed to manage projects are fundamentally different from those needed to manage ongoing work processes.
In the 1970s, much effort was spent developing cost and schedule controls and automated project management software. In 1987 PMI published the first edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK ). The PMBOK continued to develop and broaden with increased emphasis on topics such as risk, quality, human resources, and communications. The most recent addition to the PMBOK is project integration—tying together all the project areas into a unified, workable plan.
In the 1990s, project management increased its focus on communications, team building, leadership development, and motivation. The specific areas in which the project management discipline increased its focus during the 1990s include:
Stakeholder identification and management
Project team member competency and commitment
Communications and communications planning
Performance measurement to specifications/objectives
Integration of core and ad hoc team personnel
Project management as a career path.
So what is this thing called project management? Understanding it requires the definition of a project. According to PMI , "A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service". This brief definition suggests several notions. First, because the output is a unique product or service, project personnel must develop a thorough understanding of what that output is, along with the limitations and risks that will be encountered in trying to achieve it. Second, because a project is temporary it must be handled differently from an ongoing operation. In particular, the project lifecycle must be understood. Finally, both the temporary nature and the unique output of a project create the need for alternative forms of organization and for unique project skills and tools.
"Project management is the application of skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements". This requires project managers to understand the project objectives, limitations, lifecycle, and roles of the participants. It also suggests that project managers should possess a variety of essential skills.
Every project has an objective, that is, a reason for performing the project. This objective can be implementing a new computer system, constructing a building, merging two companies, or developing a new product. Each objective has two considerations: scope (the features that are included) and quality (how the output performs).
Every project also has one or more limitations on how well and how quickly the objectives can be achieved. These limitations frequently include budget, resources, time, and technology. The limitations create risks that the objectives may not be met; these risks need to be identified.
Unlike ongoing operations that continue indefinitely, projects are temporary and have lifecycles. A project lifecycle can be used to guide a project team through all the necessary work. Some industries have their own, highly detailed project lifecycle models. However, a simple four-stage model (shown in Figure 1-6) can be used to explain the concept.
Figure 1-6: Project Lifecycle Model
The first stage, initiating, starts with identifying a potential project. Initiating activities include establishing the need for the project, understanding the project scope, approximating the time and cost required, and securing approval to plan the project in detail.
Once approval is granted, the project enters the planning stage. Many additional details are planned, some team members are added, and approval to perform the project work is granted.
The third stage, executing, is when most of the project work is accomplished. The project team is at its maximum size. Activities are directed, monitored, and controlled. This stage ends when the project customer accepts the project output.
The final stage—closing—occurs when workers and other resources are reassigned; the project is evaluated and administratively closed.
Several distinct roles are required for projects. A project manager is responsible for ensuring that the objectives are accomplished. This requires facilitating the project team, dealing with problems, making decisions (often concerning tradeoffs between the project objectives and limitations), and communicating with all other parties. A sponsor (usually an executive) guides the project manager and helps behind the scenes with overcoming obstacles. The project team determines the details of how the work must proceed, performs the work, and reports progress. Stakeholders are those who have an interest in the project. The primary stakeholder is the customer of the output, but many other parties also have interests in a project. For example, neighbors at a construction site may have concerns about noise, dust, and traffic.
A project manager must possess a variety of skills to achieve the project objectives. According to Kloppenborg and Mantel (2001), these skills can be grouped generally into six categories: planning, budgeting, scheduling, resourcing, monitoring, and controlling. While managers of ongoing operations also need to perform tasks related to each of these six categories, the methods by which these must be performed on projects are different because of the temporary nature and the unique output that define projects. Many project-specific, specialized skills in these areas have been developed over time.
Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 2000 edition (Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, 2000), p. 4.
Ibid., p. 6.
Timothy J. Kloppenborg and Samuel J. Mantel, Jr. "Project Management", The Concise International Encyclopedia of Business and Management, 2nd ed. (London: Thompson Press, 2001), p. 5438.