Published here May 2013.

PART 1 | Search for Basic Project Management Research
Project and Management Dissected | Another Perspective
Technology Management versus Project Management 
A Particularly Helpful Reference | A Useful Postscript | Summary

Project and Management Dissected

If we research the "management" part of project management, then nearly a century ago we come across Henri Fayol's theory of five primary functions of management that states: "To forecast and plan, to organize, to command, to coordinate, and to control".[8],[9]These six functions, or seven activities (if you concede that "control" is two activities consisting of monitor and redirect) are often reduced to four in many of today's texts, i.e. "(1) planning; (2) organizing; (3) leading; and (4) controlling".[10] Any or all of which the Project Management Institute ("PMI") has somehow managed to mutate into five "process groups", namely: "Initiating; Planning; Executing; Monitoring and Controlling; and Closing".[11],[12]

But in terms of project management, has there been any academic research done to test the validity of Fayol's theory as when applied to project work, in whatever form the Fayol theory may be expressed? And what happens if any of those activities are omitted?[13] There are surely many examples to draw upon in the world of failed projects!

Next we turn to the definition of the word "project", a source of even more confusion in the project management literature. True that PMI has promulgated the definition of "project" as "A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result."[14] To us, this is a rather wishy-washy definition. But unfortunately there seem to be no generally agreed definition of the word, as testified by some thirty-four versions in the latest edition of the Wideman Comparative Glossary of Project Management Terms.[15]

Interestingly, most of these definitions are encumbered with a variety of conditions, as is the PMI definition, such as being: A one-time endeavor; Novel or unique in some way; A system or process; Product or delivery oriented; Cost, time or resource constrained; A network or cluster of activities; Organized; Directed toward beneficial change; A temporary organization; A temporary management environment; An investment of effort; The cultivation of an opportunity; A time-constrained operation; A dialectic between thought and reality, and so on. All of these can be found in one or another definition of "project" but most appear to be aspirations rather than de facto definitions.

A project does not have to be time-bound, resource-bound, planned, organized or even unique. A project does not even have to be an "ad hoc, loose flexible structure"[16] or "a fine example of process-driven instrumental rationality".[17] A project can just be chaotic - and sometimes is!

Search for Basic Project Management Research  Search for Basic Project Management Research

8. Where "control" means to receive feedback (or monitor) and adjust.
9. accessed 8/23/12.
10. Ibid.
11. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, ("PMBOK" and "PMBOK® Guide") Fourth Edition, Project Management Institute, 2008, p39
12. A sequence that regrettably is consistently confused with the generic phases of the project life span.
13. Such a test would correspond to Stage 3 of the six-stage development of a mature science or discipline. paraphrased from Scientific method: accessed 8/23/12.
14. PMBOK, p5 and p434
15. Wideman Comparative Glossary of Project Management Terms v 5.5 available through PayPal at
16. Toffler (1970); Minzberg (19790; Nonaka & Takeuchi (1995)
17. Weber 1949)
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