What is Project?
Project management has been more and more popular for the last two decades. The reason for that is that the people who are managing project as their daily job has realized the importance of methodology and process of project management. But recently a new question has risen: do technicians or operation teams (i.e. manufacture, sales, marketing, et al.) also have to learn something about project management?
Before we get into the question of “Other than managing project what can the knowledge of project management use for?”, firstly we have to answer the question of “What does project really mean?”.
The concept of project have been clearly written in PMBOK 6th edition:
“A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. “
From the official definition of project which is written above, we can learn that there are two basic aspects of a project:
1. A project usually has an outcome.
The outcome of a project can be a unique product, service, or result. In other words, the outcome can be anything. Why is that? – you may ask. That’s because almost anything is an outcome or result of something else. For instance, if I drank a cup of coffee, the result would be “I am being more awake and more energetic”. From this point of view, “make a cup of coffee and drink it” is in a way a project. While it is a very simple task, we can call it a “mini project”.
2. A project is a temporary endeavor.
In this description, “temporary” does not mean the endeavor last shortly. It means any project has a certain timing of termination. For instance, some project last only for weeks, while others last for years, or even decades. But all of them have a certain planed day of the project’s ending.
In our daily life, almost anything we do is temporary. For example, the mini project mentioned above – “make a cup of coffee and drink it” would usually last for less than half an hour.
In a word, if we have our daily life planed out, we can see our daily tasks as “mini projects”.
Here are some examples.
- Planing a honeymoon vacation
- Studying and preparing for a final exam
- Finding a job and be employed by a company
- Creating your own app for smartphone
What is Project Management?
Again, let us firstly look up the official definition of project management. In PMBOK 6th edition, here it says:
“Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
In other words, if we have to do some activities to meet certain requirements, and during this process we apply some certain knowledge or methodology of management on these activities, than we are actually doing what we called “project management”.
Now, the real question would become: if we can all agree that the examples mentioned in the previous section are in a way projects, how can we applied project management on these type of projects to make things easier? Or even more, to make our life better?
A good answer would be to use the ten knowledge areas of project management.
The definitions of ten knowledge areas are listed as follow, and correspondingly, a daily life event is used for help understanding the meaning of each knowledge area. The event we used is “Making cookies for your husband/wife before he/she get home”, which we can imagine it as a mini project.
Figuring out what work needs to be done for your project. Making sure your end product has everything you said it would.
E.g. Could you have decorated the cookies? Or made more batches?
Figuring out the time it will take to do your work and the order you need to do it in. Tracking your schedule and making sure everything gets done on time.
E.g. When and how long will it take to prepare and make the cookies?
Knowing how much you’re able to invest in the project and making sure you spend it right.
E.g. How much are you willing to spend on the cookies?
Making sure you work as efficiently as you can and don’t add defects into the product.
E.g. You have to check that the cookies look and taste right.
Getting all the things and peoples to work on the project. And helping them stay motivated. Rewarding them for a job well done and resolving conflicts that come up.
E.g. You have to make sure your schedule is clear, and your honey is going to be home on time.
Making sure that everybody knows what they need to know to do their job right. Tracking how people talk to each other and dealing with misunderstandings or miscommunications if they happen.
E.g. During the process of making cookies, you have to make sure you’re not mixing metric and imperial measurements.
Figuring out how to protect your project from anything that could happen to it. Dealing with the unexpected when it does happen.
E.g. Could you burn the cookies or yourself on the range? Are the eggs fresh?
Finding contractors to help you do the work. Setting the ground rules for their relationships with your company.
E.g. Before you make your cookies, you have to select the right stores to supply your ingredients.
Identifying the group of people who might have an impact on your project or who your project will affect. Understanding what they need and making sure your project delivers it.
E.g. Does your sweetheart like chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter, or oatmeal?
Coordinating all the other nine knowledge areas mentioned above, and coordinating all of the work so that it happens correctly. Making sure changes are approved before they happen.
E.g. Making sure all the right parts of the project come together in the right order, at the right time.
In conclusion, any daily life event can be a project. Therefore, no matter who you are, if you can use the ten knowledge areas of project management to decompose the tasks you’re working on, and work through it, then your job would be much clearer and easier. That would be beneficial for not only your work but also your everyday life.