A paper presented to the first Engineering Congress, The Institution of Engineers, India - Calcutta, January 1987

Introduction | Definition | Traditional | Hard-Soft | Environment
Characteristics | Concepts | Control | Breakdown | Fundamentals
Prerequisites | Summary | Appendix A | Appendix B

Some Basic Concepts of Project Management


In developing any project, we must plan the What?, When?, Who?, How?, How well?, and How much? A project can only be executed effectively with a clear definition of the objectives to be achieved, and a plan for achieving those objectives.

Project management also relies heavily on the science of management systems. For example, Decision Analysis (an outgrowth of systems science) is a methodical and logical process for evaluating information, predicting the future, evaluating and comparing alternative courses of action, and selecting the best course to achieve the stated objectives.

Management by Exception

Once the planning is complete and the objectives have been defined, management of a project should be by exception to the plan. Any other scheme would be chaotic, and usually is! Good management should not have to act during the execution of a project unless there is a deviation from the plan. If those deviations are beyond the project's control, however, then the owner or sponsor's executive management must alter the original objectives.

Delegation of Authority

Management by exception clearly implies that authority to act during execution of a project must be delegated as much as possible. This must be commensurate with the ability and experience of the project team to make decisions in accordance with the plan. That is why a trained and experienced project manager is so important. A good project manager must recognize, react, and exploit unexpected change to the advantage of the project.

Project Organization

Because owners investing in capital works can deal more effectively through a single organization, an effective project management organizational structure, complete with appropriate management systems, is essential. Such an organization must assume responsibility for feasibility, scheduling, design, cost control, procurement and delivery. This forces a logical approach and facilitates decision making. Managerial unity can thus be established within an otherwise functional organizational structure, and the Owner can continue to concentrate on his primary business with minimal dilution of effort.

In turn, the Project Manager in charge of such an organization must interpret the Owner's requirements and direct and integrate the work of various specialists in diverse disciplines. He must look at the overall project without being influenced by, say, the specialist's bias or the contractor's profit motive.

Thus, responsibility for conducting the project rests with the Project Manager's team, and this team must be very results oriented. This central group must be similarly capable of delegating and motivating. This is especially important where other functional groups are required to contribute to the project, but whose primary responsibilities rest elsewhere.

Consequently, the Project Management Organization must become a central clearing house for timely project decisions often involving divergent interests. It must pull together such diverse activities as feasibility studies, client changes, etc. As such it is directly involved in managing the participation of parties normally outside its direct control.

Project scope and complexity frequently dictate the need for a formally structured Project Management System. This is necessary to balance design and construction within schedule, cost and quality constraints; to synchronize activities in terms of time, cost and place; and to coordinate human and material resources.

Through such a Project Management Organization, properly set up and efficiently managed, the Owner can achieve effective control of the project from the beginning.

Project Manager's Objectives

It follows from the foregoing that the Project Manager's personal objectives must be to:

  • Attain the willing commitment of people to assigned tasks;
  • Achieve the coordination and collaboration of different work groups, responsibility centers, and entire organizations, including those of the owner;
  • Achieve cooperation by placing a high premium on reliability and timeliness of information, and by discouraging unnecessary or irrelevant information;
  • Steer the project to completion in an orderly and progressive manner;
  • Ensure that trade-offs between scope, cost and time are satisfactory and acceptable, and are seen to be so; and
  • Perpetuate development of personal and professional skills and the potentialities of project participants.
Project Characteristics  Project Characteristics

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