What is Project Management?

Firstly let’s start this discussion by defining what a project is. Project Management doesn’t exist without a project.

And what I find is that a lot of people struggle with the concept of what a project ACTUALLY is.

Here is my definition anyway:

A Project is anything that involves managing a change.

So let’s look at that.  I decide to go on a holiday, a trip from home to somewhere and back again.  Does that involve change?

Sure does.  It involves the change involved with packing my personal belongings, travelling to a different place, setting up a temporary home there, then unraveling that and travelling back home again. A change.

Therefore this is a project.

You won’t always need a Project Manager to manage a project

And I may not employ a Project Manager to manage that whole trip for me, and then again I might.  Isn’t that in part what travel agents are – they are a form of ‘project manager.’  They manage the procurement of travel services and accommodation to make my change easier.

Here’s another example:

I work for an advertising agency.  A client wants to change peoples perception of their brand or a specific product.  They want my help to produce an advertisement.

Is managing this work a project?

Sure is.  I am producing something.  That in itself is change.  No advertisement, to an advertisement.

Of course within a business context, either a medium sized or large organization there are many changes that occur which should have a formal project established.

We all know though, that often times this is not the case.

Managers don’t see the need for a formal project and usually problems occur.

Problems with conflicts between work priorities, or funding conflicts, the usual stuff when you try and do too much at once.

So, back to the definition of a project.

Interestingly, the online dictionary has a different definition, which is:

an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.

I see that this definition focuses on the how and not the what.  Perhaps the reason for so many project failures.  But that’s a topic for a separate blog post.

What is Project Management?

So, if a project is something that is undertaken to make a desired change, what then is Project Management?

Isn’t it the successful planning and implementation of the change?

Sounds easy, right?

At one level I am going to say, yes it is.  If you are someone who is a planner, organizer, and a people person.

If that’s not you, then it probably won’t be so easy.

Project Management is all about people management

Good project management is all about relationships and people.  It is not only, as most of the formal project management methods teach, planning, scheduling and costing.

Deciding to step into Project Management because you want to plan, schedule and manage things, is stepping into it with the wrong focus.

Let me share a real-life experience with you.

I was managing a Business Project Management Office.

A young woman from the Customer Service team came and asked me if she could join the team as a Junior PM.  We talked about it and she felt it was something she wanted to do.

I said yes and that I would mentor her.

A short time into her working with me, she came to me and said “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to deal with all the people issues. I’m not cut out for it.”

She hadn’t realized when she took on the role that so much of it would handle stakeholder management, dealing with disagreements and conflict, managing expectations, uncovering unspoken assumptions, all of the things that project management is really about.

And so, she left the role and went back to her job in Customer Service.  I think for her this was the known, whereas the project management role was full of unknowns.

What I’m saying is this; you may have an idea of what project management is, and it may be wrong.

There is a need for project management all around you.  Change occurs everywhere.

Project Management involves a large amount of people management.

Consider this if you are wanting to make a change or, you are considering getting into project management.

Need help deciding if you want to get into Project Management, or you are there and having problems.  Reach out via my contact form and let’s talk.