What is project management?

All great achievement has been characterized by extreme care, infinite, painstaking, even to the minutest detail.

Elbert Hubbard

Let’s return to the restaurant example and look at some tasks along the project-planning path.

Whew! That’s a lot to keep track of — which is exactly why you need project management. Fortunately, over the past 60 years, the field of project management has made great strides in developing standard, repeatable processes to manage a project from start to finish. During this course, you will become familiar with these processes, as well as multiple concepts, tools and techniques that will support you as a project manager.

Elements of project management

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) — Fifth Edition, 2013 identifies five process groups within project management: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. These five process groups help project managers focus on the work required at different points in the project lifecycle.

Along with the five process groups, project management draws on 10 knowledge areas or aspects of the project that must be managed, coordinated and overseen. The 10 knowledge areas are integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk, procurement and stakeholder management.

By first thinking about your projects in logical steps — the five process groups — and then considering each project aspect that must be managed — the 10 knowledge areas — you provide structure and increase the chances of meeting your goals!

For an example, let’s head back to our wedding event. During the planning process group, you’d figure out how to time catering activities by developing a schedule. The schedule would include information on meal preparation, like when to order ingredients and in what sequence to ensure freshness; what day and time the beef stock should be made; what time to roast the chickens — and much, much more.

Using the five process groups, here’s what a structured approach to project planning looks like.

Detailed, yes. But there’s good reason: Elaborated planning helps you envision the results you want to achieve and the steps necessary for attainment. Determining the steps to get you there and doing what it takes to climb those steps is the heart of project management.

Sage Advice

Rally behind the goal

The best-run projects are those where the project manager starts from day one tracking everything, communicating up and down, holding people accountable and driving decisions. Then they garner support and buy-in from stakeholders and the project team. In other words, they get a bunch of people to rally behind a common goal.