What is a project?

Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible. And suddenly, you are doing the impossible.

Saint Francis of Assisi

So what constitutes a project? A project is a:

  • Finite venture with a beginning and end.
  • Set of interrelated tasks and activities aimed at a single objective.
  • Comprehensive approach that produces a unique product, service or result, or alters an existing product.

Projects exist for any number of reasons: to construct a 100,000-seat sports arena, manufacture a piece of heavy machinery, prepare a tradeshow exhibition, restructure a communications system — the list is endless. The scale and complexity of projects varies, but all are undertaken to address a business need or take advantage of an opportunity. In essence, projects drive business.

Let’s take a look.

Projects vs. business as usual

What distinguishes projects from day-to-day business operations? If you own a restaurant, your normal activity is serving breakfast, lunch or dinner at your location. You employ cooks, servers, busboys, greeters, bartenders — all the people who keep the place humming. But let’s say you’re hired to cater a wedding on a Saturday evening at an outdoor venue 20 miles away. Saturday is your restaurant’s busiest day, and you need “all hands on deck.”

What do you do?

The catered wedding requires a new set of activities and outputs outside your normal operations: special budget requirements, logistics, additional staff, customized menu, floral arrangements, tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, utensils... you get the idea. It is a planned, temporary endeavor to achieve a specific objective — which is to satisfy the bride, groom and guests.

Planning for a project objective is imperative. For all but the simplest projects, a systematic approach works best. Why? A formal, structured approach offers control over complexities and variables: Is rain forecast for Saturday night? If so, order tents. Are some guests vegetarians? Might be a good idea to provide a meatless entree.

When the goals, resources and schedule for a project are systematically plotted, your chances for success skyrocket.

Real-World Application

Get the “what” done

The foundation of project management is based on three things:

  1. A framework that creates a structure of what to do.

  2. A methodology used to plan, manage and control the “what to do, when to do it, how to do it and why to do it.”

  3. The knowledge, skill and judgment to determine the best way to get the “what” done.