The original version of this paper was first presented in Project Management World Today in the March 2000 issue.
It was subsequently updated and reproduced on this web site in November 2000.
This is Revision 17, March 2009.

Republished here October 2022.

Introduction | Meaning of Project Management | Definitions
Project Management Success | Criteria for Establishing a First Principle | PART 2

Meaning of Project Management

In order to discuss fundamental principles of project management, we need to be clear on what we mean by project management - not in terms of the traditional definitions[8] but in terms of the scope and limitations of this management activity. So, for purposes of this examination of principles, it is useful to draw a distinction between management of the project and management of the primary technology required to produce the product of the project. That is, a distinction between project management and technology management. This idea of separation is illustrated graphically in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Separation of project management from product creation
Figure 3: Separation of project management from product creation

Of course, while we may draw this distinction, in the real world the two must be fully integrated and the balance in the combination of the two varies between different project management application areas. But with this distinction, we see that the management of the technology obviously varies considerably according to the type of product. However, project management on its own is relatively stable and uniform across all types of projects. This enables the identification of a number of common principles of project management across the majority of project management application areas and throughout the project life span.

To emphasize that we wish to focus on the founding principles of project management, we will use the term First Principles.

It may be asked: "Do we really need a set of First Principles of Project Management"? The problem is that in general management, and especially in a competitive corporate environment, understaffing is generally considered good business practice. This is not the case with projects. On the contrary, projects require contingency allowances to accommodate the inevitable uncertainty involved. Consequently, the practice of under-resourcing is a recipe for failure and hence the need to promulgate a set of generally agreed fundamentals.

So what should be included as a First Principle? The key appears to be whether or not the principle is universally fundamental to project success. (See additional comments under Discussion: First Principles Generally.) However, the meaning of project success, like a number of other key terms, is debatable. So, in order to lay a foundation for this discussion, we commence with definitions for the leading terms used in this paper.

Introduction  Introduction

8. See the Wideman Comparative Glossary of Common Project Management Terms: project management
Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Search My Site | Site Map | Top of Page