Fundamentals of Project Management
by James P. Lewis
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Chapter 1An Overview of Project Management
is a job that is done once.
WHAT IS A PROJECT?
What is the difference between project management and managing in general? Aren’t they really the same?The answer, of course, is no. A project is done only once, whereas most jobs are ongoing or repetitive, andmanaging one-time jobs is different from managing ongoing ones. For one thing, the people who work on aproject may be reassigned to other jobs once the project is completed, so the team is temporary. Often theteam members do not report to the project manager on a regular basis, meaning that the project manager hasno direct authority over them, a situation that presents its own set of problems.Quality expert Dr. J. M. Juran defines a project as a problem scheduled for solution. This definition forces usto recognize that projects are aimed at solving problems and that failure to define the problem properly iswhat sometimes gets us into trouble. Interestingly, when you tell project team members that you want to beginplanning a project by writing a problem statement, they tend to say, “We don’t need to do that. We all knowwhat the problem is.”In my younger days, I was sometimes intimidated by that response. Not any more. My rejoinder is, “If that istrue, it will only take five minutes, so let’s do it.” I have never yet gotten a group to write a problem statementin five minutes, because seldom do people really understand or agree on what the problem is. This failure toachieve a consensus definition of the problem leads to developing the right solution to the wrong problem orto a paralyzing bickering about goals.“A project is a problem scheduled for solution.”—J. M. J
To help a team at this point, I offer a definition of a problem. A desired objective is not a problem by itself.