Published here November 2016

Introduction | Definitions of "Project" in the Public Domain
Business Process | The Need for a Specific Definition of "Project"
What Have We Learned from Our Efforts to Dissect "Project"? | Our Final "Project" Definition

Introduction

Last month we spent considerable effort in trying to come up with a more comprehensive definition of the term "Project" — especially in the context of project management as a professional discipline. So far we have not succeeded. But why is it so important anyway? In short, why bother? To answer that question, it is timely to remind readers of Dr. Lynda Bourne's opening remarks quoted from her blog, titled: Seeking a definition of a project. In it she says in part:[1]

"The simple fact is [that] if you cannot define something precisely, you have real problems explaining what it is, what it does and the value it offers. Definitions serve two interlinked purposes, they describe the subject of the definition in sufficient detail to allow the concept to be recognized and understood and they exclude similar 'concepts' that do not fit the definition. Definitions do not explain the subject, [they] merely define it."

On the issue of precise definition, Lynda observes that: "Good definitions are short and unambiguous and are essential for almost every aspect of life." And cites the example of ordering a snack requires a clear understanding of what's required. How many times have you been to a restaurant with a friend and ordered a meal but when it arrives, it doesn't look as good as what your friend ordered — largely because that's not what you asked for? Or maybe your idea of what a hamburger should look like is not the same as the restaurant's interpretation. You get what they think you ordered.

However, if you are at a friend's home for the meal, assuming you are polite, you will happily accept what ever comes. You are still having a meal, but the difference is in the environment in which you are eating. It's the same with definitions - many are situation specific and need tailoring to the circumstances. That's what the art of definitions is all about. What we are saying is that it is not realistic to think that all or most, except the simplest definitions, can be so devised as to suit every situation.

But let's change gears for a moment. Readers may have noticed that in our last paper, we did not explore what definitions of the word "project" are offered in the general public domain.

 

1. Mosaicproject's Blog: Seeking a definition of a project, posted on August 11, 2016 at https://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com
 
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