Aaron J. Shenhar, Institute Professor of Management, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ and R. Max Wideman

The original of this paper first published on the PMForum web site, September, 2000. (Updated presentation, April, 2002.) Presented here as the fifth in a series linking project type through management style to project success.

Published here April, 2002.

Introduction | Project Management | Success | Nature | Content
Project Work | Style | Types of Leader | All Together | Conclusions

Project and Project Management

In the context of "project success", our preferred definition of project is as follows.[1]

"A unique set of coordinated activities, with definite starting and finishing points, undertaken by an individual or organization to meet specific objectives within defined time, cost and performance parameters." To this we would add that the project is only completed when the intended product or deliverable has been satisfactorily transferred into the hands of the customer.

This definition implies that a project involves both process and organization and this is quite distinct from the "product" which is the resulting output. In this respect, the word "project" is often misused to refer to "the end result", i.e. the "product". It should also be noted that the process is a "journey through time" and that the objectives, expressed in terms of scope, quality, time and cost determine the "boundaries" or limitations imposed on this journey. The measure of "customer satisfaction", on the other hand, is the measure of the project's success as reflected in the perception and acceptance of the end product.

Project management, then, is the management of the process or journey just described. Yet, it too has a fundamental underlying concept. Perhaps this was best expressed more than 2,500 years ago by the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius, when he said "In all things, success depends upon previous preparation - and without preparation there is sure to be failure."

In modern parlance, this elementary observation translates into a simple two-step sequence: "Plan before doing". This basic concept is the foundation of the project life cycle by which projects need to be managed. That is to say, first plan, then do. This is also reflected in the Demming Quality mantra "PDCA" (also known as the Demming Wheel) which stands for Plan, Do, Check, Act and describes the Demming quality control management cycle.

Introduction  Introduction

1. Association of Project Management (UK) APMP Syllabus 2nd Edition, January 2000, Abridged Glossary of Project Management Terms (Rev.4)
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