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