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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. Regular "management" will not be enough. This is why many people who have been successful in operations for years actually fail in what I like to call, "projectland."

The Association for Project Management (APM) based in the United Kingdom explains:

A key factor that distinguishes project management from just 'management' is that it has this final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process.”

Source: APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

Getting anyone to do anything on time can be a challenge. It is even more of a challenge to get a group of people to get something done TOGETHER on time. Even more of a challenge still is getting a group of people to get something done TOGETHER on time that THEY HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE. This is why project management is its own art and science!

There are proven, practical techniques that professional project managers apply and then there is the art of leading people into the wilderness. Project people are pioneers. Project managers must be courageous leaders, because there are always obstacles to overcome as you move through the intense terrain of projectland. Project management is a vehicle that can help teams to reach their unique, tangible objectives with less stress in a finite period of time. The more people that are needed to accomplish the objectives, the more complicated and stressful the project work tends to get. Project management can truly be your secret weapon to successfully deliver projects. That's why I love project management so much, and why I think more people should care to learn and apply it not only on the job, but also in their personal lives!

Stay tuned for our next article to learn more about:

  • Who is involved with project management?

  • Why should I care?

How about you?

Have you ever had an "easy task" turn into a project? Have you been asked to lead an initiative or create something new that has never been done before? Do you feel confident that you know what to do to make sure that it is successful?

We're here to help! Would you like to have fun learning practical techniques from our Founder that have been PROVEN to work in the real world while also upgrading your resume and LinkedIn profile?

Check out this short video about our exclusive Practical Project Management (PPM) Certificate course and how it can help you BECOME A PRO in #projectland!


About the Author: Dawn Mahan, PMP is an award-winning consultant, international speaker and started her project management career by accident! She sees projects and project management everywhere. Her work preparing young professionals to work inside major corporations through YearUp has been featured in MarketWatch, Morningstar, Yahoo! Finance and more! Join Dawn and ambitious professionals like you in her next live, virtual Practical Project Management (PPM) Certificate course, so that you can learn to lead projects in the real world!

PMI® and PMBOK® are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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