A Presentation to the Construction Industry in the cities of Bangalore, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and New Delhi on behalf of the Consultancy Development Centre, New Delhi, India - January 1990

Table of Contents | Introduction | Understanding | Environment
Education | Summary | Appendix A | Appendix  B | Appendix C

Project Management Education and Professionalism

4.1 Change and the Need for Professionalism

The idea of establishing projects, and the consequential need to manage them, has been around for a very long time. In fact, since early civilization major projects like the pyramids of Egypt, or the Great Wall of China, or more recently, the Suez and Panama canals, have been successfully implemented. In their day, these were prolonged and complex undertakings and no doubt exhibited many of the "management difficulties" experienced in today's environment.

The essential feature of these projects, indeed of any project, is to bring about change. That projects are designed to implement change is not new. What is new is the rapidity with which change is currently taking place, and which we may confidently expect to continue to take place.

Project management is a very dynamic, challenging and exciting work environment. However, by the same token others may perceive it as threatening, it is much more difficult to control and is indeed open to misuse and abuse. Today, there is increasing recognition that to bring about progressive and beneficial change successfully, special management skills and understanding are required.

This makes a good case for establishing professionalism in the management of projects, and practitioners in many fields of project endeavor, and around the world, are actively discussing the possibility of formally establishing project management as a recognized profession.

In the following discussion, special terms used in project management, especially for educational purposes, are shown in bold italics. They can be found in Appendix C, Glossary of Project Management Terms.

4.2 What is Project Management?

In the view of the Project Management Institute ("PMI"), a non- profit organization based in North America and dedicated to advancing the state-of-the-art in project management, the definition of Project Management is:

"The art of directing and coordinating human and material resources throughout the life of a project by using modern management techniques to achieve predetermined objectives of scope, cost, time, quality and participant [stakeholder] satisfaction."

Special attention should be given to the word "satisfaction". PMI believes that this is a key ingredient of successful projects. That is to say, a successful project is one in which all the stakeholders feel equally good about the end results.

Even more basic to the term project management is the word Project itself. As noted earlier, unlike the relatively steady state of an on-going enterprise, a project has some distinctive characteristics of its own. Generically speaking, a project seems to be "Any assignment which will end when a goal is reached."

The point is that a project is not an on-going activity. Rather, it is an undertaking that ends with a specific accomplishment and the product or end result is a distinguishing characteristic.

In practice, the work to be accomplished on most projects is constrained by the limited availability of resources. Therefore, again in PMI's view,:

"A project is any undertaking with a defined starting point and defined objectives by which completion is identified. In practice most projects depend on finite or limited resources by which the objectives are to be accomplished".

Note that projects are not limited to a particular field such as construction. Nor is there any reference to size. In fact the word "project" has come to be a household word in the English language. It is a simple concept that leads to a dramatically different approach. It is the difference between maintaining the on-going and creating something new.

The function of project management is, of course, the whole process of managing a project.

4.3 What is Professionalism?

Since the late 1970's, there has been a significant effort by members of PMI to develop project management into the newest of recognized professions. This presumes that there is indeed a basis for a professional discipline. By examining such professions as accounting, engineering, law, medicine and so on, a study by PMI established that there are five attributes that are generally associated with recognized professions. These are:

  • A Unique Body Knowledge which implies the existence of principles and concepts that are unique to the particular profession, and which can be codified and documented so that they may be studied and learned through formal education.
  • Standards of Entry which define the minimum levels at which one commences a progressive professional career path.
  • A Code of Ethics which makes explicit what is considered to be appropriate behavior and provides a basis for the self- policing of unprofessional behavior, and thereby limiting the necessity for direct legal controls.
  • A Service Orientation reflecting an attitude by which members are willing to commit their time, money, and energy in attending conventions, publishing their ideas and experiences, and generally contributing to the body of knowledge and its dissemination for the betterment of both the public and the profession itself.
  • A Sanctioning Organization which sets and promotes the standards and acts as the self-policing agency.

4.4 The Body of Knowledge Structure

Clearly, the identification of a unique body of knowledge provides the foundation for the remaining attributes of a profession. In developing a Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK), early work by PMI practitioner and academic study groups quickly established that a systematic model/framework/structure was needed to meet the requirements outlined above. Moreover, the characteristics of such a framework must be comprehensive, compatible, logical, saleable, simple, systematic and understandable.

Some might say that all PMI has done is to borrow heavily from corporate or traditional management principles. To some extent that may be true, but the big difference is the environment in which a project takes place.

This project environment includes the whole business of establishing temporary organizations; identifying discrete goals and objectives; obtaining commitment to those goals, often in the face of conflicting personal goals; allowance for "learning curves"; and then when the goals have been met, the problems of disbanding in an orderly fashion, with benefits rather than damage to those involved.

PMI studies found that there is a logical five level hierarchy or breakdown within the PMBoK, which reads from top to bottom as follows:

Function Process Activities Tasks Tools and Techniques.

At the top level there are presently nine areas of concentration or learning. These consist of the four now traditional core functions of managing Scope, Quality, Time and Cost, plus four integrative functions of managing Risk, Human Resources, Contract-Procurement, and Communications. In addition, an overview or Pm Framework subject area is necessary to tie them all together.

It is the very identification and on-going analysis of these knowledge areas which establishes the PMBoK. The breakdown of each of these Pm Functions into processes, activities and so on, provides a comprehensive and unique body of knowledge.

A project manager who is not paying at least some attention to all of these PM Functions on his or her project is probably not getting the best out of the project team! The difficulty is that there always seem to be a number of people involved who do not really or fully understand the process, or who become more interested in the process than the end results.

It is convenient to represent the PMBoK as a matrix which provides flexibility in describing the various functional inter-relationships. However, the Function Chart Structure contained within each of these functions is presented as a Work Breakdown Structure.

4.5 Project Management Control Functions

Many texts have been written about both traditional and project management. Doubtless many more will be written as our understanding continually advances. Here, therefore, we can only touch on some of the basic reasons for including the present range of functions within the PMBoK Standards.

The definition of the project's objectives together with all the activities involved in their achievement, and the resources consumed, is known as the project Scope. Since the scope of a project has the habit of changing during the life of a project, this gives rise to the need for Scope Management.

Not everyone is familiar with this word "Scope". Scope means the work content and finished "products" for which the project has been designed. Sometimes scope may be represented by a statement of the results or performance expected, leaving the content details to the designer. Similarly each phase content, component or Work Package (discussed in Section 2.11) also have associated scopes.

Scope is the definition that describes the project's complete product or deliverables. A scope statement should be introduced by a brief background to the project, or component, and the general objective.

For a project to be considered effective or successful, certain standards of Quality must also be stated or presumed. Establishing and maintaining these standards during the life of the project leads to the need for Quality Management.

Since a project is determinate, it is clearly set in the context of a finite period of time. Unfortunately, time is a completely inflexible resource, so that activities must be carefully planned and scheduled. This is referred to as Time Management.

Because in our society "time is also money", money is a closely associated resource. Fortunately it is somewhat more flexible. Nevertheless, it too needs careful managing, so we have Cost Management.

Scope, quality, time and cost management form the core group of project management control functions. However, as yet we have not discussed some of the special circumstances which arise in the management of projects.

4.6 The Project Life Cycle

ęThrough the work of PMI contributors, it has been reasonably established that every project, generically speaking, passes through four distinct and sequential periods or Project Phases. These are known collectively as the Project Life Cycle. Individually and according to the area of project application, these four phases may be known by different terms, for example: Concept, Development, Execution and Finishing.

As noted in Section 2.4, this happens to be my preference because the sequence C-D-E-F is very easy to remember. Others may use successively terms such as Initiation, Planning, Implementation and Termination or Commissioning or Transfer. For any given project, these phases are typically subdivided into shorter periods or "stages". That is, Project Stages are subsets of phases.

This project life cycle should not be confused with facility/product life cycle or even corporate business life cycle. It is of course related to these other life cycles and these relationships are shown diagrammatically in Figure 7. It should be noted that the project life cycle is only a small but vital part of a product's life cycle which in turn is "owned" by the sponsoring organization, which has an even longer life cycle.

Figure 7: Typical Project Life Cycle compared to Facility/Product

Figure 7: Typical Project Life Cycle compared to Facility/Product and Corporate Business Life Cycles

To achieve any kind of output or product, an Effort is required. In the case of a project, however, the relation between effort and time is very distinctive. To visualize this relationship, consider a curve of effort plotted against time. Clearly the effort starts at zero (before the project has commenced) and ends at zero (when the project has been completed).

In between these two points, the effort-time curve invariably has a very characteristic profile. This may be likened to a pear sliced neatly down the middle, one half of which rests flat face downwards, with the stalk at time zero. The vertical profile is then typical of the time-effort relationship.

Thus, the time-effort curve starts to rise up in the concept phase, tends to level off during development, rises again sharply to a high peak during execution, and then even more rapidly drops to zero in the finishing phase. This typical profile is shown in Figure 2.

This phenomena is fundamental to the concept and needs of project management. The rapidly changing situation depicted by the time-effort curve through the project life cycle places special emphasis and requirements on a number of areas of otherwise traditional management science. For this reason, these areas are considered to be essential knowledge for the effective management of projects.

4.7 Project Management Integrative Functions

Projects are achieved through people by calling upon their respective skills and abilities. This is why we need the project management Integrative Functions.

For example, the number of people and their types of skill varies considerably during the project life cycle. And their collective level of effort varies considerably as we have already seen. Consequently, many of these people are required only for relatively short periods of time. Normally there will be a core group referred to as the Project Team, led by a Project Manager, but even this team is required only for the life span of the project.

Thus, careful attention must be given to the assembly of people working together effectively through a clear understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities in a temporary organizational environment. This requires Human Resources Management. Often these temporary organizational arrangements take place within a traditional management organizational setting, which introduces the concept of a Matrix Organization.

Projects are only launched for purposes of achieving change through predetermined objectives, or at least they should be! Because of the relative uniqueness of every project and the rapidly changing conditions as depicted by the time-effort curve described above, the final outcome of every project is always uncertain.

This gives rise to the need for special and constant attention to the forecast final results in terms of meeting the ultimate objectives, including all resources consumed. Based on this forecast, especially if the forecast is unfavorable, it is possible to modify direction by exercising Control.

Control is only achieved if all parties to the project clearly understand their respective roles and responsibilities as a result of careful planning and communication. Moreover, the status of the project at any given time is only apparent through consistent and accurate Feedback. Often this feedback can only be fully understood through a proper interpretation of the Project Environment, both internal and external. Responses to the project environment are usually referred to as Public Relations.

Collectively, these activities come under the heading of Communications Management.

People and communication alone are not enough to implement a project. It is the service that people offer that is needed to execute the project. It is a common experience that a major portion of a project manager's time must be given over to procuring peoples' commitment to the objectives of the project. In addition, materials and equipment are also typically required. The commitment of these goods and services are obtained through Contract/Procurement Management.

Uncertainty was mentioned earlier. Uncertainty is associated with probability and risk. Prudent management will take steps to mitigate the possibility of a less-than-favorable outcome by reducing the project risk wherever this can be achieved cost effectively. This leads to the need for a comprehensive under standing of the nature of the project in the first place, especially if it is a complex and interdisciplinary project. These activities are identified as Risk Management.

Finally, to tie all these PM Functions together, the PMBoK Standards Committee concluded that a further PMBoK section would be required to provide a frame of reference or overview. This section, which is not strictly a project management function, has been given the name Project Management Framework. From an educational standpoint, however, it is another subject area in its own right.

The Project Management Framework provides the opportunity in which the concept of a matrix can be developed to demonstrate the interdependencies and interfaces between the respective functions. It also provides the opportunity to take an overview perspective of a number of other aspects of project management. Examples include the process of control, typical project life cycles, the need for project integration and interface management, and the place and impact of project management in the various public and private sectors.

It can also be the repository of some general project management background and information as well perhaps as some of the more universal tools and techniques of project management.

The Environment External to the Project  The Environment External to the Project

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