project management

Concerns of Project Managers

PM Tutorial

Have you ever tried to explain to a spouse, child, other friend, or even a stranger what you do? Or perhaps you were just designated project manager and are “overwhelmed” with what you are expected to do. Perhaps the following will help. This is the third article in the tutorial series on PM101, appearing in the third month of each quarter starting with March 1993.

Sam was overwhelmed.

The magnitude of this project was greater than had ever been attempted before. Sam sought the wisdom of the past by trekking to the Cave of the Elders. Alas, among all the hieroglyphics, no great wisdom was found. Undaunted, Sam returned to the riverbank determined not only to complete the project but to add to the walls of the Cave of the Elders lessons for all future Sams. Sam's hieroglyphics were recently discovered and interpreted as follows.

Project management (PM) as a unique career and profession is barely thirty years old. Its origins can be traced back to efforts such as U.S. Department of Defense major weapons systems development, NASA space missions, and major construction and maintenance efforts, as well as comparable efforts in Europe. The magnitude and complexity of these efforts were the driving force in the search for tools which could aid management in the planning, decision making, and control of the multitude of activities involved in the project+ specially those going on simultaneously.


Note: This article is based on the PMBOK as approved on March 28, 1987. The PMBOK is currently being revised, which will result in some changes to this text. When the revised PMBOK is officially approved, this will be revised appropriately

A major misconception about PM is that it is PERT, CPM, or project scheduling software by any other name. A more realistic view is that scheduling software is a small part of PM. Its importance is that it has permitted scheduling and cost management to be done much more efficiently and therefore either in less time or in more detail, or both. Thus, a project can be planned and executed more precisely and leave more time to perform the other aspects of PM.

An important way to view PM is that it is the “management of change.” This statement is more meaningful when contrasted with three other types of management—general, operations and technical.

General management has responsibility for the organization as a whole. These executives concern themselves with organizational policy and strategy. Most often today strategy involves change, change which is accomplished via projects. Thus, these executives tend to be concerned about setting up new operations (a project) to implement organizational strategy. As soon as the operation is established, the concern is more with maintaining the operation in a productive mode.

Operations management can be characterized as “managing the steady state.” The products of the projects maybe new operations (a manufacturing facility) on which return on investment is achieved by continued, repetitive usage (producing large quantities of a product for sale). This is achieved through operations management, concerned with achieving output and maintaining the operation in a productive mode for as long as possible. This often requires maintenance or modifications of the facility which are done as projects.

Technical management tends to focus on the theory, technology, and practice in a technical field, concerning itself with questions of policy on strength of materials, safety factors in design, checking procedures, and the like. The products of technical management are typically designs of products to be produced in volume or of the facilities in which these products are to be produced.

PM then is the interface between general, operations, and technical management, integrating all aspects of the project, causing the project to happen, and ensuring the delivery of the product of the project to the client.



Projects have been performed and managed since the beginning of organized activities by humans. Thus to speak of project management per se does not adequately focus on the concepts and processes that are relevant today. Much has been accomplished in the 20th century in improving management concepts and methods. Some consider the Manhattan Project, the development of the atomic bomb, as a turning point in project management. This observer considers the introduction of PERT and CPM to be the most significant event defining current approaches to project management. The significance of these tools as a point of demarcation is less the direct role they play in managing a project today than their contribution to the precision in and the reduction of time and effort necessary for planning and scheduling a given project. They have provided an opportunity for project managers to focus their attention on the other aspects of managing a project, permitting these aspects to be done with greater effectiveness. All of these resulting concepts, techniques, and practices are referred to here as Modem Project Management (MPM).


The Project Management Institute has developed a normative definition of the project management functions in the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge). The eleven functions are classified into three groups—General PM Processes, Basic PM Functions, Integrative PM Functions.

It may be useful to view these as the fabric of project management, consisting of warp, woof, and the diagonals. The basic PM Functions run continuously the length of the fabric, the warp. The general PM processes tie these together into a whole, the woof. The integrative functions are the other threads which are added to give special texture to the fabric, the diagonals.

The General Project Management Processes: The Woof


Project integration. If there is a single word that characterizes project management, it is “integration.” It is the responsibility of the project manager to integrate the efforts of the varied human resources; the variety of equipment, supplies, and materials; and the technologies … to produce the product of the project … in conformance with the requirements/specifications, on schedule, and within budget.

The project environment is inherently dynamic. It is impractical, if not impossible, to pre-decide all aspects of the project and inevitably things do not always go as planned. The project manager is the focal point for gathering the relevant information, making adjustments in plans, and communicating the new plans to all concerned. PM is, by its very nature, a challenge to conceptualize, plan, implement, and close out the project within the triad of Cost-Schedule-Performance.


Strategic planning. The integration process is facilitated by having an overall strategy for the project … a “strategic vision.” Such a vision, if adequately communicated to the project team, can be the theme for integration and control actions.

Strategic planning and the subsequent integration operate on at least three levels—technical, human and schedule. At the technical level, it involves combining the product components in a manner which best achieves the requirements. For example, in assembling a stereo system, the system will perform up to the level of the most limiting component. This is true of any project. It can be argued that this is really systems engineering and design, as opposed to project management; however, the project manager has ultimate responsibility to see that this is done.

At the human level, it is necessary to deal with concepts and work efforts. A well-defined strategic vision of how the project is to be carried out aids in achieving a common concept of the project for all team members. This is essential to ensure that all efforts are directed towards the same objectives in a consistent manner.

The strategic vision aids in ensuring that all elements of the project are completed when required. And yet they should not be completed too early lest they have to be redone, become damaged or get lost, not to mention the extra interest on the money expended to do the task if it is done too early. The vision is made explicit in this regard through the network plan for the project.

Control requirements and procedures need to be well designed and in place before substantial efforts on the project commence so that the records can be complete from the beginning. Valuable time and effort can be consumed in retracing the records after the fact and control of the project can be lost before it really gets started. Furthermore, legal tests of “prudency,” common in the utility industry, are better dealt with when accurate and complete records of the project are available.


Resource allocation. This is an essential process which both determines the cost of the project as defined and provides control over the project participants. Viewed simply, it is the budget. But even managing the budget per se will neither bring the project in under budget nor on schedule. The project manager must ensure that the allocation of specific resources is adequate but not excessive and that the right resources are assigned to the right tasks. Due to the number of activities which can be in process simultaneously, this is not a simple procedure. Fortunately, MPM software provides considerable assistance by identifying those activities which are most critical, the number of units of resource required by day for a given schedule, and the activities on which a critical resource is required. Nevertheless, having identified the critical decision areas, human judgment is still required to evaluate and make the final decisions.

The Basic PM Functions: The Warp


Scope management. “The scope of a project can be either the work content or components of the project. It can be fully described by naming all activities performed, the end products which will result and the resources consumed.” The scope statement is a vital document as it defines the project, not only what is included but what is not included. One manager of project managers commented that managing the scope of projects was his most important and troublesome assignment. On the one hand, he had to ensure that the client's needs had been met but, on the other hand, ensure that any work content not in the originally contracted scope statement could be billed to the client.


Quality management. The definition of quality is simply “conformance to requirements/specifications.” If the requirements for the product of the project are consistent with the client's/customer's real, or perceived, needs then the client/customer is likely to be satisfied with the product of the project. The product either conforms to these requirements or it does not. Quality should not be confused with excellence, luxury, prestige, “gold-plating,” or other terms which describe the product of the project in qualifying degrees. There can be waste involved in producing a product or service that exceeds requirements just as surely as in producing a product that falls short of requirements. This definition of quality is the essential concept on which quality management operates.

The concept of a project as a “process” is essential for the application of “process control,” and more specifically, statistical process control, to the management of projects.

It should be noted that this same concept of “conformance” can apply to the project itself as a measure of how well it was planned and executed relative to such things as environmental and safety expectations of society.

The concept of the progressive elaboration of specifications as the essential nature of this process fits with the quality concept that “The customer is the next person/operation in the process.” The “customer” is the next engineer, the tool builder, the ad layout person, and so on. If the product going to them has no defects, they can perform their tasks in the most efficient manner … and do the right thing right the first time.


Time management. The management of time is crucial to the successful completion of a project. In some large projects that run for several years at costs in excess of a billion dollars, finance charges can approach $1 million per day. Even in many smaller projects, especially in a competitive market, it is essential to complete projects on time or lose the edge in the marketplace.

The function of time management has been divided into four processes—planning, estimating, scheduling, control. Planning includes depicting what is intended to be done, how it will be done, and what will be used to do it. Estimating is the determination of the duration required to perform each activity. Scheduling determines the time period in which it is intended to perform the activity, recognizing both time and resource constraints. Control includes a recognition of what has happened and taking action to ensure that the project will be completed on time.


Cost Management. Cost management includes the processes that are required to maintain financial control of projects including economic evaluation, estimating, organizing, controlling, analyzing, reporting, forecasting, and taking necessary corrective action. Cost estimating is the process of assembling and predicting costs of a project over its life cycle. The cost budgeting process involves establishing budgets, standards and a monitoring system by which the cost of the project can be measured and managed. Cost control entails gathering, accumulating, analyzing, monitoring, reporting and managing the costs on an ongoing basis. Cost applications include special cost techniques, such as databanks to aid in estimating and product life cycle costing, and topics that affect cost management, such as computer applications and value analysis.

Integrative PM Functions: The Diagonals

These functions of project management are pervasive throughout the project, providing the richness to the fabric which gives it life and character. Projects can be performed with little attention to the details of these functions but the probability of surprises, of conflicts between participants, and of misunderstandings are greatly decreased when these functions are performed well. Ultimately, the probability of success of the project will be greatly improved by knowledge and the skillful use of these functions.


Risk management. Risk management, in the project context, is the art and science of identifying, analyzing and responding to the risk factors throughout the life of a project and in the best interests of its objectives. It may also include consideration of risks associated with the product after the project is completed. The term itself tends to be misleading because management implies control of events. On the contrary, risk management must be seen as preparation for possible events in advance, rather than simply reacting to them as they happen. With time in hand, it is possible to identify alternative action plans and select that which is most consistent with project objectives.

It is the formal process whereby risk factors are systematically identified, assessed and provided for. Such provisions constitute response planning and may include such defensive actions as mitigation by risk avoidance, deflection by insurance or contractual arrangement and contingency planning such as the provision and prudent management of budgeted contingency allowances to cover uncertainties.


Human resources management. The project manager is responsible for developing the project team and building it into a cohesive group to complete the project. Two major types of tasks are recognized—administrative and behavioral. Administrative tasks include employee relations, compensation and evaluation, and government regulations and evaluation. Much of the administrative activity of the project manager is directed by organizations and agencies outside of the project. Understanding how these work can facilitate the process. The behavioral aspects deal with the project team members, their interaction as a team, and their contacts with individuals outside the project itself. Included in these are communicating, motivating, team building, and conflict management. The finite life and unique nature of projects places a premium on knowledge and skills in managing human resources.


Contract/procurement management. Inherent in the process of managing a project is the procurement of a wide variety of resources. In most instances, this requires the negotiation of a formal, written document, generally called a contract. Thus, procurement/contract management is essential knowledge. Different types of contracts are likely to elicit different types of behaviors by both the contractor and contracted. These need to be matched to the requirements of the project. The processes of initiating, evaluating, negotiating and administering contracts are essential skills. In a global business environment it is also essential to understand varying social, political, legal and financial implications in this process.


Communication management. Successful project managers are constantly building consensus or confidence in decisions at critical junctures in a project by practicing active communication skills. The project manager must be a communicator to upper management, to the project team, and to other stakeholders. The communication process is not always easy because the project manager may find barriers to communication, such as a lack of clear communication channels and problems with the technical language that must be used. The project manager has the responsibility of knowing what kind of messages to send, knowing to whom to send the message, and translating the messages into a language that all can understand.


Based on the above, managing a project may seem overwhelming. It can be if attempted by a person not knowledgeable and skilled in the concepts and techniques identified in the PMBOK. It can also be overwhelming to a person who lacks some essential characteristics for performing as a project manager. The latter will be discussed in the next article in this series.

There are means available for interested persons to learn the concepts and techniques. That in itself is only apart of the equation. Skills must be developed by experience and special types of training. Fortunately, the knowledge and skills of trainers in teaching project management concepts and skills are improving, as will be presented in the October PMNETwork.

It is also important for managers and executives to understand that MPM (Modern Project Management) is sufficiently demanding today as to require that those who are selected to manage projects require training and progressive learning experiences under the guidance of persons with proven abilities in managing projects.

PMI can provide much guidance and assistance to both individuals and organizations in understanding the requirements of effective MPM and their implementation of this increasingly important approach to managing the enterprise.

And thus Sam felt great satisfaction for having contributed to the welfare of future societies by adding to the wisdom of the ages.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.




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