Published February 2013.

Introduction | Our Response | Wikipedia Definitions of Project and Operations Management
Wikipedia Definition of Business Operations | What Did We Learn?
Wikipedia Examples of Projects and Operations | What Did We Learn?
Differences at the Work Level | Conclusion


On October 29, 2012 Dr. Janice Thomas[1] of Athabasca University sent us an Email posing a serious question:

"Now I have a question for you.

As we discussed in our short time [together] ,[2] if we are going to progress "theories" of project management we need to be able to argue a distinction between general management and project management. To do that we need to be able to define the characteristics of projects that make them fundamentally different than operations and I think make an argument for what should and shouldn't be considered a project (otherwise project management is just time management on steroids?). If we cannot make this argument, then general management thoughts on leadership, teams, budgets, schedules etc. need only be applied in the project context and there is no need for separation between project and general management.

This is really more challenging than you might think as we spent the whole Sunday with Blaize[3] (and 10 others) identifying potential differences and then knocking them down.

My colleague Thomas Lechler and I have been throwing this issue around for a couple of years now and I think we are settling on a couple of distinctions that we can argue make projects theoretically different than operations (level of uncertainty, time focus, formal end point to name a few). But it is really tough if you include everything people lump into the category of projects. I think this is why some are trying to make a case for "complex" or "mega" projects.

So here is my question for you.

What do you think are the differences between project work and operations work that makes the management of same fundamentally different?"


1. Thomas, Dr. Janice, Professor, Project Management, Director, Project Management Research Institute, Athabasca University, Canada
2. At the Project Management Institute's Global Congress in Vancouver, Canada.
3. Reich, Dr. Blaize, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
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