The Definition of a Project


Integrated Project Management
By Earl Hall, Juliane Johnson
Table of Contents
Chapter 2.  The Project, the Statement of Work, and the Specification

The world is full of projects. Planning a holiday party or publishing an in-house newsletter to inform employees of "what is going on" are examples of projects. Reconfiguring an office layout for a new facility also is a project. Building an atomic power plant is a project a very big project. Because holiday party and newsletter projects have loosely defined outcomes and the characteristics of collaborative happenings, they do not necessarily require managing. However, more complicated projects that have precisely defined outcomes, such as reconfiguring an office layout or building atomic power plant, must be managed.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®), the guide created by the Project Management Institute, defines a project as "A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. 'Temporary' means that every project has a definite beginning and end. 'Unique' means that the product or service is different in some distinguishing way from all similar products or services. The project ceases when its declared objectives have been obtained."[1]

[1] A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®), Sylva, NC: Project Management Institute, Publishing Division, 1996 edition.P. 4 (A CD-ROM or Hard Copy of the more recent update of PMBOK are available upon request.)

This is a good definition, but it is incomplete.

The publication, Project Working Model, is a guide for project managers that was produced for Tetra Pak, of Lund, Sweden, a world leader in the manufacture of packaging machines. It states: "The project objective must be clear and measurable."[2] We share this need for measurement precision, as do many other practitioners and authors of project management literature.

[2] "Op Sit"

IPM defines a project as any unique activity sequence having a beginning and a precisely and measurably defined outcome that requires the cooperative efforts of a number of people over time, and that is managed by one person.

The term "unique" in the IPM definition means that a project is a one-time activity and not something done the same way again and again that type of effort is called a process. "A precisely and measurably defined outcome" defines exactly where the project is going. "Managed by one person" means that one person is responsible for ensuring the achievement of the project outcome and will remain with the project from beginning to end.

"Measurable" as used in the IPM definition does not mean measurable by numbers only, as is depicted in the following project specification example:

Deliver 20 gallons of Brand X house paint to the building at 100 First Street by 11:00 A.M. on November 3, 2002. Color must match the attached sample.

'Twenty gallons' is numerical. However, 'Brand X house paint' and 'the building at 100 First Street' are identifiably measurable; '11 A.M.' is measurable with a clock and 'November 3, 2001,' a calendar.

'Matching the color sample' is not precisely measurable until a color chart with a graduation of colors is referenced, and an expert at matching samples to colors on the chart is designated. In short, precise measurements can be designated in terms other than numbers, and the writer must be careful not to let a fuzzy criterion slip in.

Projects rarely fall into a project manager's lap with their precise measurable objectives all spelled out, however, there are exceptions. For example, a human resources department may be faced with a new government requirement to report monthly on the number of people who have filed claims for carpal tunnel syndrome disability. Here, the precise, measurable outcome is specified, and the human resources department can go ahead and design a system to gather this information and report it. Most projects, however, reach this go-ahead point only following a great deal of analyzing, and data gathering, and after considering alternatives.


    Integrated Project Management
    Integrated Project Management
    ISBN: 0071466266
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2005
    Pages: 190

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