This unpublished paper was first written in February 1996 and has since been revised several times and is now updated for web presentation.

Note: The Project Management Institute, USA, has adopted the acronyms "PMI", "PMBOK", "PMP" as their registered marks.
Published here May 2003.

Background | Terminology | The Nature of Projects | Unique Features of Projects
What Projects are Not | General Observations on a Project Body of Knowledge
The Life Span of Projects
 | Elements of the Project Life Span

The Nature of Projects

"What is a project?" Certainly this is a needed basis for any discussion of structure and rationale. My own definition stems from my contention that a good part of defining the term needs to be done by exclusion and my strong belief that projects have more unique features than just those listed in definitions currently offered in the professional literature. The elements and characteristics that I believe are useful in any discussion of PM are presented below.

Like beauty - said to be in the eye of the beholder - the definition of "project" often seems to rest with the user of the term. For purposes of discussing the entirety of a PMrBoK, the term "project" should be defined in such a way that once an effort is designated as a "project", the majority of project managers would agree that it is indeed a project.

The converse should also be true, i.e. the definition would not exclude any effort the same majority would designate as a project. The definition which PMI has adopted for its PMBOK as being fully inclusive and also correctly exclusive is as follows: "A project is a temporary process undertaken to create one or a few units of a unique output or product or service whose attributes are progressively delineated in the course of the project's execution."

D.I. Cleland in his book Project Management-Strategic Design and Implementation provides the following similar and rather intriguing definition: "A project consists of a combination of organizational resources pulled together to create something that did not previously exist and that will provide a performance capability in the design and execution of organizational strategies" (emphasis added). It should be pointed out that when Cleland talks of " and execution of organizational strategies" he speaks from the standpoint of the customer or client. For those other organizations engaged in the business of project execution the purpose might be as simple as making a profit. Any of these reasons fit Cleland's definition of furthering "organizational strategies". Perhaps this is the project life span conundrum where you might ask: "Will the real project please stand up?"!

Terminology  Terminology

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