Key-note address to
A Conference under the Northern Lights
by R. Max Wideman, President of the Project Management Institute, in Reykjavik, Iceland, August 31st, 1987

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What is Project Management?

In PMI's view, 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 satisfaction."

Here, I should like to draw attention to the word "satisfaction". We believe that this is a key ingredient of successful projects. That is to say, a successful project is one in which everyone feels equally good about it - or, in a political environment, about equally disappointed (according to your point of view!). Even more basic to the term project management is the word "project" itself. Again there is a diversity of views.

I suppose that some of the earliest great projects known to man are the pyramids in Egypt, built three to four thousand years ago. The objective was longevity, in which they succeeded handsomely. But they were built with seemingly almost unlimited resources, labor and time.

Another good example of more recent building is the Taj Mahal near Delhi in India, which I had the opportunity to see for the first time earlier this year. Here the objective was to create something of great beauty, and here again the sponsors, designers and artisans succeeded magnificently. However, in terms of time and cost, I understand it was something of a disaster.

While I was in Calcutta, India's Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, made a most interesting statement. He was addressing the Consultative Committee of Scientific Departments responsible for monitoring progress on four technological missions - drinking water; communications; edible oils; and vaccination and immunization.

He is reported as saying that

"Strategies must be evolved to achieve results within a pre-decided time-frame, resources should be identified and management methods so adopted that redtapism did not block progress."

He went on to say

"For achieving the missions' objectives, it is imperative that specific time-bound tasks are spelled out clearly and allotted to specific institutions for implementing them within that time frame."

In my view, he was clearly stating the need for project management.

My background is in civil engineering, so it is easy for me to focus on construction. Yet, since I was born six decades ago, the world has changed quite a bit. It has introduced antibiotics, ball point pens, credit cards and computers; DDT, drip-dry clothing, disco dancing and disposable diapers (baby nappies to you and me!); electric freezers, electric blankets, electric typewriters and electric music; fast foods, frozen foods, FM radio and Frisbees; pizza, plastics, penicillin, polio shots and the pill; television, tape recorders, radar and word processors; nylon, pantyhose, and vitamin pills...the list is seemingly endless.

The point is that each and every one of these, to say nothing of all the attempts and failures, represents one or more projects! So there must be a "generic" definition of the word project and it seems to be any assignment which will end when a goal is reached. 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."

Hence the need for project management!

Note that there is no limitation 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". It is like the difference between being "in love" - and "making love"!

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