If you’re human, you’ve done it. You’ve slipped sideways into a project without realizing it, and your routine practices didn’t work. This can be messy and difficult.
Some people you know have been doing it all their lives. Some never catch on – even when they are acutely aware that things just aren’t working right. They assume that’s the way the world is and nothing can be done about it.
Well, when IS it a project? And what CAN be done about it?
The answer to the first question is not as simple as it might seem, and the implications are extremely important. Project management calls for relatively time-consuming and uncomfortable actions up front. You have to get key stakeholders to sit still for the necessary research, decision-making, planning, communication and commitment. That’s a challenge.
When you’re looking for ways to identify when you’re into a project, you’re not going to get a lot of help from the scripture of the industry. Here are some examples:
The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (the PMBOK Guide of the Project Management Institute) – “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”
Harold Kerzner’s Project Management -- “A project can be considered to be any series of activities and tasks that:
Have a specific objective to be completed within certain specifications
Have defined start and end dates
Have funding limits (if applicable)
Consume human and nonhuman resources (i.e., money, people,
Are multifunctional (i.e., cut across several functional lines).”
Garold Oberlender’s Project Management for Engineering and Construction –
“A project is an endeavor that is undertaken to produce the results that are expected from the requesting party. . . . A project consists of three components: scope, budget and schedule.”
All three are correct, as are many of the various other definitions of “project” out there in the field. But many people who wake up in project situations could use some finer tuning. How do I know whether what I’m doing, or what I’m facing, is a project? What do I do about it?