PPM 301 - Project Management

Section 1. The Discipline of Project Management


This lesson introduces the student to the subject with an overview of project management. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Project success or failure
  2. A distinct and changing discipline
  3. Project management competence
  4. Project management philosophy
  5. Benefits
  6. Ethics
  7. Project life cycle
  8. Bodies of knowledge and certification
  9. Project management process
  10. Program management

The chapter begins by giving the student the frightening impression that every paragraph in the text is numbered. It is not quite that bad, but the authors take a very structured approach to their subject and we will do what we can to benefit from that. Each of the numbered items above is a sub-section of this chapter, so we have a pretty good list of topics to consider.

The first point in the chapter is that we can watch out for things that can make our projects successes or failures. A good manager should be aware that a success to one person may be a failure to another if their expectations are different. To reach agreement on the success or failure of a project requires that we agree on some measures of success and failure. The text recommends that we develop a set of performance standards at the outset of a project by which we will measure it. The text also mentions that a key factor in our standards should be whether the customer can effectively use the project and its results.

The text elaborates on some perceptions of a project from different points of view:

  • user - a user of the end result of a project may only care about whether that end result works, and may not care about the time it took to complete the project or the final cost of the project; compare this attitude with the perspective of an accountant who is concerned about the time and expense of a project that ran long past its planned completion date
  • team member - the text remarks that a project team member may call a project a success if that person added or improved some skills by being part of it; this is a very narrow point of view, unlikely to make that team member popular with the customer
  • supplier - a supplier who makes a sale and delivers a product as part of a project might consider the project a success regardless of the quality of its results; this is more understandable than the team member above, since product sales are the business of the supplier
  • contractor - turning the last concept around, a contractor whose bid on a project was not selected could easily consider that his bid was a failure; the text tells us that the contractor might consider the project a failure, but this seems a bit extreme

The text continues with a list of factors that can contribute to or define successes for a project. Not all factors will apply to every project:

  • The project results have been delivered and the customer agrees that they fit the mission, objectives, and goals of the customer's organization.
  • The project phases have been completed on time and on budget.
  • The entire project results have been completed on time and on budget.
  • Stakeholders are happy with the results of the project and with the way it was managed. Note that the idea of being happy with the management of the project is separate from being happy with the results. We want the stakeholders to have a good time during the project, not just at the end.
  • Project team members believe that being on the team was a valuable experience.
  • The project has resulted in profits for the customer.
  • The project has produced technological breakthroughs.
  • Effective teamwork was evidenced during the project.
  • The project provided improved business processes or new business opportunities to the customer.
  • The project used contemporary management theory and practice.

At this point the student should pause, consider these points, and score them. Arrange the ten points in the order from most important to least important, according to your perspective at this time. See assignment 1 below.

The text also provides a list of factors that can contribute to or define failures for a project. As above, not all factors will apply to every project:

  • The project has overrun its projected cost and/or schedule.
  • The project does not fit the mission, objectives, and goals of the customer's organization.
  • The project has failed to meet technical performance requirements.
  • The project took too long to complete and did not deliver results when they were needed.
  • The project had inadequate management.
  • A project result was a failure due to a faulty design.
  • Stakeholders are not happy with the results of the project and with the way it was managed.
  • Top management on the customer side did not regularly review and support the project. This is important because the customer's organization must be shown by their own leadership that the project is important.
  • The project was staffed by unqualified people.
  • The project did not serve a long term goal.

More factors are listed on page 4, factors for failure at the top of the page, and factors for success at the bottom.

The text moves on to a discussion of the history of project management. The student is first told that it goes back about sixty years, then that it was practiced during the building of the pyramids of Egypt. Regardless of the actual date of the first managed project, we can assume that projects typically do better with project management than they do without it.

There is a list of factors on pages 6 and 7 that we are told are significant to the development of project management:

  • The use of project management on famous projects, such as the Manhattan Project.
  • The development of scheduling tools, such at PERT, CPM, and Gantt charts.
  • Defining projects as ad hoc endeavors with specific life cycles.
  • Projects can be seen as tools for managing change in an organization.
  • Recognition that projects typically cross over functional and organizational lines.

The authors' point is that project management continues to change. We could say that it has always been around, but it has changed over time. It is more recognized now as a function of organizations that is separate from their other business functions, but supportive of those functions.

The text continues on page 9 with a discussion of competence. In the context of project management, we define competence as having three parts: knowledge, skill, and attitude.

Knowledge is divided into several parts:

  • Understanding the technology of the project. The text presumes that most projects involve some kind of technology change. If so, the project managers must understand that technology.
  • Understanding strategic management as it relates to the future goals of the customer.
  • Understanding project management itself.
  • Understanding the mismanagement processes used in managing the staff of a project, and its stakeholders.
  • Understanding the use of the Project Management System (PMS) being used for the project. This includes collecting data on the organization and its functions, charting work breakdowns, monitoring the progress of the project, selecting performance standards and rating the project on them, and interfacing the management system with the staff affected by the project and with their culture.

Skill comes in several types as well:

  • Interpersonal skills matter because projects are run by, carried out by, and have effects on people. You will need to be able to work with people and lead them.
  • Communication skills come is several types: spoken, written, and presentational communications are examples. The text quotes Peter Drucker, a noted management consultant and author, who thought that communication skills may be the most important skills to have.
  • The ability to see the big picture is an important skill because people who cannot or do not see outside their particular area are going to fail to meet the needs of people outside that area.
  • Political sensitivity is important for a project manager because there are always political issues that intrude on projects. The text is talking about office politics, the reality that some people, issues, and projects have both friends and enemies. Enemies of a project or a project manager can ruin the likelihood of success.
  • The text says that management style is a skill. It seems to be talking about delivering results like a professional, acting like a person who is leading others to a better place. The text mentions that this includes showing sensitivity to the needs of stakeholders, which leads to a better project outcome and to a better rapport with people.
  • Skill in building good conceptual models is useful when you are trying to create models that a new system design has to follow. If you cannot model processes as they are and as they are meant to be, you will not be able to guide staff to modify a system or to create a better one.

The text breaks the third branch of competence into two branches: attitude and behavior. We are told that a person's attitude toward what they are doing affects their work, affects how they are perceived, and affects how their messages about their work are perceived. A person's behavior can be an expression of that person's attitude or an expression of their professionalism. The text lists several behaviors that are productive for projects:

  • a manager appropriately delegates authority and responsibility
  • a person accepts responsibility for his actions
  • a manager or a team member consults with the team on key decisions
  • a person is considered a role model for the team
  • each person communicates with everyone when needed
  • a person defuses tension with humor
  • each person shares credit for successes with everyone who contributed to them

The text adds more concepts that reflect effective attitude and behavior:

  • authority - a good project manager develops skills and knowledge that show authority in the area of work, not just what is granted by management, but what has been earned by experience
  • emotional intelligence - the skill of being able to manage people, to act wisely in human relations, and to build and maintain a team by managing your own and their emotional levels about a project
  • individual competence - the text seems to loop back to the beginning of the topic, stating only that competence is measured differently in different organizations

The text states in part 1.4 that it is useful to develop a project management philosophy, a way of thinking about the subject that will give us perspective on it. It repeats the idea that projects can be tools for managing changes in organizations. It may go a bit too far, saying that the projects themselves can be used to change an organization. I begin to worry that the text is so focused on project management that it may be forgetting that our customer have businesses of their own to conduct.

Characteristics of projects:

  • a project must contain statements about its costs, its schedule, and its technical performance capability (what it can and will do)
  • projects follow a life cycle
  • projects have core functions

Several core functions of projects are described:

  • planning - what will the project accomplish?
  • organizing - who and what will be needed for the project?
  • motivating - how do we get our staff to do their best on the project; how do we get the customer's staff on board with the project? (This is the component that I have seen ignored the most.)
  • directing - moving the project forward by making sure decisions are made and carried out
  • control - managing the project by getting feedback on its activities and adjusting them as needed

The text expands on the Planning and Organizing functions on pages 20 through 23. Students should read through these pages and discuss who should be involved in these processes on a discussion thread I will create for this purpose. See assignment 2 below.

The text rambles for a couple of pages then starts to discuss benefits of project management again. Unfortunately, this time it is talking about the benefits of having projects for people who run the projects. Let's move ahead to more interesting material.

Beginning on page 29, the text discusses a Code of Ethics for the Project Manager, developed by the Project Management Institute. The text attempts to explain that the code allows for cultural and regional differences from one country to another and from one culture to another. The code itself is available at the web site behind the link in this paragraph. It is laid out in series of topics, points, and subpoints, so give yourself a few minutes to read it and make sense of it.

On page 33, the text begins a discussion of the project life cycle. This is a bit of a misnomer because projects typically have a beginning, an end, and parts in between, but they typically are not repeated. Repeating a series of steps makes it more of a process than a project.

The text presents the life cycle of a project as a series of five phases, sort of like a person going from infant to toddler to child to adolescent to adult.

  • conceptual - proposals are evaluated to determine whether they should become projects
  • definition - projects are defined in terms of objectives, costs, resource requirements, performance, and monitoring
  • production - results of the project are produced and delivered; this phase includes testing and adapting the results to fit the organization
  • operational - if the results meet all goals, they may be integrated into the organization as ongoing parts of it
  • divestment - the results of the project are no longer effective for our organization, so they are phased out

The text discusses project management certification for several pages, and lists four certification bodies, whose authority seems to be linked to their countries of origin. Like most technical certifications, this kind of certification is either required by your employer or not, or recognized by your employer or not. It is best to obtain the kind of certification you need for your intended job, rather than choosing one by its description in a book.

For another five pages the text does little but repeat what it has already said. Okay.

The text decides to cloud our minds with a new concept on page 49. Sometimes several projects are started that can be related under a common banner. The common connector can be called a program. The establishment of a program can be a way of giving management oversight to someone who can then be responsible for the outcomes of all the related projects. The text says this in several ways, but that is the essence of the last few pages in the chapter.