Except for text quoted by others, the views expressed are strictly those of Max Wideman.
Published here October 2016

Introduction | Lynda's Suggested Update | A Historical Perspective
The Real Problem | Definitions by Various Authors | Summary Conclusions

Lynda's Suggested Update

Lynda Bourne goes on to state:[5]

"Since 2002 there has been a significant amount of academic work undertaken that looks at how projects really function which may provide the basis for a better definition of a project. The key area of research has been focused on describing projects as temporary organizations that need governing and managing. That is, as a standalone organization involving actors from many different 'permanent organizations' such as the group of people assembled on a construction site. Or alternatively as a temporary organization within a larger organization such as an internal project team (particularly cross-functional project teams).

The research suggests that all projects are undertaken by temporary teams that are assembled to undertake the work and then dissipate at the end of the project."

Further, Lynda observes that:

"... whilst every project involves a temporary organization, many temporary organizations are not involved in projects. Another issue is the focus on outputs — a product service or result; the output is not the project, the project is the work needed to create the output. Once the output is finished, the project ceases to exist! A building project is the work involved in creating the building, once the building is finished it is a building, not a project."

Amen to that. She then points out:

"The scope of the work involved in any particular project is determined by its stakeholders — projects are a construct created by people for their mutual convenience, not by some immutable fact of nature."

After adding further strengths to her argument, Lynda offers the following definition and explanation:

"A project is a temporary organization established to accomplish an agreed scope of work, within defined constraints, which the relevant stakeholders agree shall be managed as a project."

This definition overcomes many of the fundamental problems with the existing options:

  • It recognizes projects are done by people, for people; they are not amorphous expenditures of 'energy'.
  • It allows for the fact that projects do not exist in nature, they are 'artificial constructs' created by people for their mutual convenience, and different people confronting similar objectives can create very different arrangements to accomplish the work.
  • It recognizes that projects are only projects if the people doing the work and the people overseeing the work decide to treat the work as a project.

Unfortunately, this definition is also circular. If we don't know what a project is in the first place, how can "the relevant stakeholders agree to manage [the work] as a project"?!

Having attempted several definitions of the term "Project" ourselves over the years, we thought it was time to take a look at the history of this topic.

Introduction  Introduction

5. For a complete transcript, see Lynda's Blog as in previous Endnote.
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