Genesis of Modern Project Management
We need to be sure that we have a common understanding of what a project is.
Perhaps the simplest definition is that a project is "A unique set of activities
with a beginning and an end, undertaken to meet some established goals, objectives
and deliverables within defined constraints of scope, quality, time, cost and
stakeholder or customer satisfaction." Even though the word "project"
is often misused, this definition implies that a project is a process quite distinct
from the product which is the output from this process. Note also that scope,
quality, time and cost determine the 'boundaries' or limitations of the project
(process), but that the measure of customer's satisfaction is the measure of
the project's 'success'.
Intuitively, we must know that the success of a project depends on both the
management process as well as the 'value' of the product upon completion. Surprisingly,
the issue of project success, what it is and what management style or organizational
approach can best achieve it has received only quite recent attention in the
project management literature. Yet, the corner stone of modern and successful
project management also derives from ancient history.
More than 2,500 years ago, the famous Chinese philosopher, Confucius, expressed
this sentiment. "In all things, success depends upon previous preparation
- and without such preparation there is sure to be failure." In modern parlance,
this elementary observation translates into a simple two-step sequence: 'Plan
before doing', or the more popular exhortation 'Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan!'
This basic concept is the foundation of the project life cycle by which projects
need to be managed. First plan, then produce.
Of course, the real world of project management is not quite so simple, but
it helps if we can grasp the fundamentals. Interestingly, the two steps have
entirely different characteristics and require quite different management approaches.
This is because planning is (or should be) about 'Doing the right things' to
ensure the success of the project.
It includes ensuring that the correct objectives are selected and correctly
stated, selecting the best solutions, and the best way of implementing them.
It also includes, and this is frequently overlooked, reaching agreement on the
relevant measurable critical success indicators by which the project's management
will direct or guide the project process. Planning is about maximizing the project's
Producing, on the other hand, is about 'Doing the things right' or, in the
words of the Total Quality Management enthusiasts - 'Do it right the first time!'.
If the project is to be contained within its scope, quality, time and cost parameters,
then the focus must be on competent administration and creating a productive
environment. Producing is about maximizing the project's 'efficiency'.
Integrating the considerations just outlined above enables a project to be
put through a systematic project management process consisting of the generic
four-phase project life cycle shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Four-phase Generic Project Life Cycle