What exactly IS Project Management?

Project Management lies somewhere between an art and a science and typically  involves cooperating with others to get the ‘job’ done. What exactly the ‘job’ is can  vary immensely – it could be small, big, at home or at work.

Generally, a collection of tasks make up a job and collectively these tasks can be called a project when they relate and lead into one another. For example, Task A needs to be completed before Task B can start, which in turn needs to be completed before Task C starts.

The aim of a project is to deliver a ‘product’ and this product could be a physical thing like a building, a software application or even something intangible like improving how something is done at a business. In order to make life easier, project management is also about putting a plan and methodology in place to improve the chances of your project succeeding.

With a small project such as getting new carpet for your home, there are a few steps to ensure it gets done. You would need to measure the area you want the carpet for, select the carpet and finally have it laid. A more complex project might involve laying carpet as part of a new house build.

Some more project examples include:

  • Building a solar panel for your home
  • Building a dolls house for your daughter
  • Planning an event like a wedding or business conference
  • Purchasing a laptop and not knowing where to begin
  • Renovating a kitchen
  • Launching a website
  • Brewing your own beer
  • Restructuring how a business operates
  • Arranging an office move
  • Launching a space shuttle

Let’s take one of the above examples and consider how it might look if we were to ‘projectise’ it in a very basic way.

There are a number of ways that we could do this. One is to start at the beginning and work forwards, and the other is to start at the end and work backwards. For the below example we’ll work forwards but this is by no means the only method. Essentially we want to spend some planning out some some clear steps that need to be taken in a sequential order.

It is often better to consider the steps that need to be taken before arranging them into an order, but for the purposes of the example, I’ve done both at the same time.

Renovating a kitchen:

Turn This

  1. Measure the space of your existing kitchen
  2. Look at various kitchen styles you are interested in
  3. Gather information about kitchens – how much do they cost, how long the work takes from start to finish, how much the labour/installation costs might be
  4. Decide if you can afford the cost of a new kitchen – you may have an idea of the the most you are able to spend
  5. If you decide to proceed, narrow down the type of kitchen to a couple of choices (it’s always good to have more than one option)
  6. Contact kitchen companies and ask for quotes on the main kitchen types you are interested. In order to aid in the decision making process, contact multiple companies. Alternatively, you may have some additional steps to research the best companies – where ‘best’ is relevant to you e.g price, speed, choice, style etc.
  7. Compare quotes and decide on which is your preferred option
  8. Contact company and notify you would like to proceed

Into This!

While the steps above are fairly basic, there are some that have been left out such as deciding if you wanted to go with a new or second-hand kitchen or deciding if you wanted to renovate it yourself. These sort of things are known as assumptions – I have assumed that the kitchen renovation is going to be a new renovation done by a kitchen company. Before starting any project and as part of the planning process it’s good to have the assumptions listed. These assumptions can also have additional relevant information recorded alongside them, however I’ll cover this in a later post.

With the above example, I’ll freely admit that I may have left out some of the possible steps or even got something wrong and this is where project collaboration becomes important. The people you work alongside are able to provide a reality check and help you ensure you are on the right or track.

“No one is an island, a Project Manager even more so.”

In future posts I’ll go into more detail on structuring projects and look at some of the other important aspects which will help your project to be a success.