(image by Marco/Jak)
Last year I was having lunch with a business partner and she invited her parents to join us. Her parents were both retired and her father was curious, possibly skeptical, about project management.
"What is it?" he asks.
My simple answer is that project management is "a structured methodology for getting projects completed."
"Why does it matter?" he continues.
"Well," I reply, "using a structured approach has a better chance of success in terms of delivering what is intended and doing it on time and within a budget."
He is still not satisfied. "What did they do before project management? They still got things done."
He is correct. In fact, great historical undertakings were completed such as the pyramids in Egypt and the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an. However, they probably did not have a tight schedule and limited budget. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is an example that may not be considered a success and construction spanned 199 years. Without project management would it have been possible to send a person into space or land on the moon? Large complex projects in modern times require disciplines such as project management in order to be successful. It will be essential for such grandiose schemes as the colonization of Mars.
One of the most important contributions of project management is the concept of thinking like a project manager. When presented with an opportunity or a problem, I listen carefully then start to think about an action plan with activity sequencing and the critical path. I also rely on the ten Knowledge Areas to check if anything should be included in the action plan which will increase the probability of success. When used properly project management concepts allow us to achieve our goals. When used improperly or ignored the result might be an undesirable disaster.