What Is Project Management
The difference between a program and a project is? This question, uttered millions of times in understanding the difference between two very similar things. Simply put, projects have a beginning and an end. Programs essentially have no foreseeable end; they are continuous. I have always looked at mowing the lawn as the ultimate project program. If I were to mow it just once, that would be a project, but I mow it every week. This is a continuous program until I decide to cover the yard with rocks.
This book focuses on projects. These activities are special and unique, and can range from building a house for your family to implementing new software for your company that helps you track timecards. On a more relatable scale, a project can be the process involved in taking a class, planning out everything needed to achieve the desired grade, and then doing it.
Clarifying the difference between a program and a project comes down to separation and closure. Projects typically involve significant efforts just to accomplish, and a mental break is needed before the next project. Think about the end of a semester. Post-finals, your brain feels fried. A winter or summer break between semesters can help your brain get ready to take on the next semester. Projects also break the work into similar categories. This not only makes the work less daunting but also provides unique time periods in which progress can be measured. The main highlight is that the ability to measure time and costs during a project provides better control of the work, thus creating less risk that the project will become a train wreck.
Project management goes back as far as the pyramids and possibly even longer. The master builder, Imhotep, takes the notoriety as the first known project manager. He went down in history as the man who built the Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser.
Throughout history, numerous examples of incredible projects have been brought to life. The Sistine Chapel, the Roman Aqueducts, and the Transcontinental Railroad, to name a minute few. However, it wasn’t until World War II that management theorists studied the foundation of project management. Much of this was based on the logistical complexity of fighting a war across two separate oceans, but this work was capitalized on during the Cold War. The United States was in an arms race with the Soviet Union. Each country was intertwined in massive, multi-year development projects that called for enhanced management to ensure that weapons were created as quickly as possible.
Later, in the 1990s, the Project Management Institute (PMI) came to life to codify the best practices of the top project managers, publishing in 1996 the Project Management Book of Knowledge, or PMBOK for short. This became the Bible of the project management field, and PMI was declared the governing body.
Project management used in nearly every industry and career field. Known mostly for its applications in construction, because it provides a great example of the project lifecycle. An architect has a vision, they design blueprints, and a project manager develops a plan to bring the architect’s vision to life. Then, a hired contractor builds according to the plan, and the building comes to life. The project manager ensures that costs don’t go over budget and tracks the timeline to make sure that the completion date isn’t late. At the end, the building commissions, and the project completes.
This same model used in the business world. Every day, companies move initiatives forward that they believe will make their organizations more competitive, profitable, or efficient. These initiatives then typically given to program managers or analysts who generate a plan and recruit a team to help with the implementation. These project plans focus more on aligning teammates and soliciting help from the organization.
However, this work will specifically look at project management in terms of academics. It capitalizes on guidance from professors about their expectations for passing a class, completing requirements, and mastering how to manage multiple classes without becoming overwhelmed. Although the skills presented show preference toward the classroom, know that these skills are transferable to the first job you take out of school. New bosses will want to see that you can manage your work in a clear and organized fashion, and project management skills will put you head and shoulders above your peers.
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