What is Project Management & Why Should I Care? (Part 1)

Have you ever been asked to be part of an exciting new initiative at work?

After the excitement wore off, did you wonder, “where do I start?”

You’ve come to the right place.

I like to say, “Project management is EVERYWHERE!” This is because PROJECTS are happening everywhere! The problem is that many people become project managers BY ACCIDENT. It even happened to me!

Here are questions our gurus get a lot:

  • What is a project management?

  • Why should I care about project management?

In this article, we'll focus on what is project management. We'll address "why should I care" in more detail in our next article. Let's get started with the definition.

The Definition

The definition of project management according to the Project Management Institute (PMI) headquartered in the United States is:

Project Management [proj-ekt man-ij-muhnt] - Noun

"The application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements."

Source: PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition, Glossary, Page 716

Does this definition help? Not really? Is it because the word project is used two times, but you’re not entirely clear on what that means? Let’s continue exploring the definition in more practical terms.

What is a project...REALLY?

Several years ago, we were kicking off an engagement with a major health system in Delaware, with seasoned administrators and doctors wearing white coats in the room…and one of them stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Excuse my ignorance, but what is a project REALLY.” So I realized that even these brilliant folks weren’t in agreement on what a project is and what it is not. So let’s make no assumptions and start there.

If you work for a for profit company, then you are in the business of making …. MONEY. Operations is like the special crank that makes the company money.

Leaders in operations are focused on how to get that crank to run better, faster and cheaper.

When operations does a good job, it makes enough money to invest back into the business so it can grow. So, the company might decide to invest that extra money to recreate that crank in a new city. This one is an obvious project but not all of them are.

To identify whether or not you have been asked to lead a project, let’s check the definition offered by the Project Management Institute:

A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

(PMBOK Guide - Sixth Edition, Glossary, Page 715)

Let’s discuss the 3 main ingredients baked into their definition, because they are so important.

Projects are (1) TEMPORARY and (2) UNIQUE and (3) CREATE a product, service or result.

  1. Temporary means there is a definite start and end. In fact, a red flag is when someone says “ongoing project” because “ongoing” violates the temporary rule.

  2. Unique means in the history of the world, no one has ever done this before…in this time, in this place, with these people…something makes it unique.

  3. Successful projects are entirely focused on delivering some new THING (a product, service and/or result).

If you have all 3 ingredients (temporary, unique and creates a product, service or result) then you have a project. What is NOT a project is often called operations.

What's the difference between "project management" and "management"?

If you DO have a project, then you will benefit from using practical project management techniques to make sure that it is a success. Reg