What is Project Management?

Project management is the process of overseeing project from start to finish through initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”

So what is project management, in plain English? In its simplest terms, project management is about getting Big Things Done Right- using established methods and professional skills to set a plan, follow through, and achieve project goals.

What is a project?

Though both require management, a project is different from a routine task. Again, according to the PMI, a project is a temporary undertaking to create a unique product.

    Projects are temporary because they have a set beginning and end point, and, consequently, a specific scope, time, resources, and set of people involved (“stakeholders”).

  • Projects are unique because they differ from regular, routine operations. They have a specific, discrete goal or goals (“deliverables”).
  • Unlike routine operations, projects tend to pull together stakeholders who are members of different departments, organizations, or locations, who contribute to, or are invested in, the project’s outcome.

What is Project Management’s 5-Step Process?

Depending on who you ask, the approach to completing a project may follow different steps, called by different names. As the principal and most influential project management professional organization, the PMI has set forth the most widely-recognized set of project management phases:

  • Initiating The project is started, named and defined, and stakeholders committed.
  • Planning Documented plans are made for cost, scope, duration, quality, communication, risk and resources. Charts, timelines, channels of communication, milestones etc. are set forth.
  • Executing The project’s team, resources, procedures, tracking systems, and task assignments are deployed, and the project plan is updated as needed.
  • Monitoring/Controlling The project’s progress and performance is measured in reference to the project plan, including target milestones, scope, and budget. Corrections are made as needed to keep the project on track.
  • Closing The project deliverables (product or outcomes) are turned over, team members are dismissed, feedback is issued. Outcomes are evaluated.

    A Brief History of Project Management

    As late as 100 years ago, it would have been impossible to ask “what is project management”? Until fairly recently, “project management,” as such, simply did not exist. That’s not to say that projects weren’t being managed. As far back as the construction of the Great Pyramids or Roman aquaducts, gifted experts have clearly been around to make sure that Big Things got done, and done right. But this aspect of business wasn’t recognized as a distinct discipline until the early 20th century. The credit for formalizing project management goes to Henri Fayol and Henry Gantt, a French mining director and an American engineering manager, who developed codified standards for managing the phases of projects and laying out formal project management plans.

    At about the same time that Henry Ford’s invention of the assembly line was revolutionizing manufacturing, these formal approaches to projects brought about a great leap forward in standardizing, documenting, and streamlining massive undertakings such as the construction of the Hoover Dam.

    What is Project Management Methodology?

    Over time, a number of different approaches, or project management methodologies evolved that were more flexible, more formal, or more suited to different types of projects. By the 1960’s project management had become increasingly essential to corporate business, aerospace, and defense, and a professional organization, the Project Management Institute (PMI), was founded. Today, the PMI provides training, advocacy, certification, and sets forth codified standards of professional practice in the “Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK),” the “bible of project management.”

    What is a project manager?

    Not everyone who manages projects is a project manager. In fact, almost every professional executes projects at the individual level from time to time, and many have had the opportunity to manage a project at the team level as well.

    A lead teacher who wants to put on a school play, for instance, must select a production and recruit teachers to assist (initiation), set up a timeline, space and resources for rehearsals, costume creation, and set building (planning), oversee tryouts and practice (execution), make sure all parties are staying on budget and on track (monitoring), and see the play performed and solicit feedback (closing).

    Anyone who has managed a project in the course of their work, however, can attest to the difficulty of managing the project’s contributors, adhering to budget, dealing with unforeseen changes, and other factors. For large, complex, or highly-constrained projects, an expert project manager is required.

    A project manager is a skilled professional who takes responsibility for all aspects of a project’s planning and implementation for an agency. Again, the PMI has defines a number of core qualities shared by project managers across all industries:

    • Project managers act as change agents who pursue project goals and drive results by galvanizing teams. They handle pressure, challenges, changes, and manage both the Big Picture and Small Details of projects.
    • Project managers have people skills which allow them to develop trust, motivation, and communication across al project stakeholders. They are excellent communicators and manage conflict.
    • Project managers have powerful and flexible proficiencies which allow them to solve complex problems, cope with unexpected changes, and adapt strategies to new criteria.

    It’s possible to enter the field without a degree and advance through experience alone, but most advanced positions require formal training acquired through a Project Management Degree Program or Project Management XCertification. Project managers are highly skilled and well-compensated, and work across an incredible variety of industries, from government agencies and nonprofits, to IT and healthcare corporations.

    Further Reading

    Is Project Management a good fit for me? Take our Project Management Aptitude Quiz to find out.

    Is Project Management a Good Career for Me? Read our guide to project management careers.

    What Project Management Degrees are Available? Check out our rankings for the best Project Management degrees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *