Project Management
All about Managing Projects

Introduction to Project Management

Whether you are organizing a training session for your colleagues or planning to construct a huge engineering plan, project management will help you achieve what you need to do.

Project management is the way we apply knowledge and processes to work in order to complete that work in the smoothest way possible. Ultimately, we are using tools, methods, skills, techniques and the experience of the team to achieve the objectives set for the work.

Projects have a clear goal, which means we can plan how to get there and work through a structured plan to ensure that the goals are achieved.

Featured Podcast: How to Complete Your Projects 50% Faster

Listen now to this featured podcast about project management techniques.

What if you had to do your project in half the time as previous projects, or be fired? Learn about techniques you can use on almost any type of initiative to get products successfully to market in record time. You'll hear expert tips from Douglas Knutzen about how to speed up a project by leveraging scheduling, execution and team techniques, and (almost more importantly) how to lead teams in high-pressure situations.
Douglas Knutzen and Cornelius Fichtner
Douglas Knutzen and Cornelius Fichtner
Scroll down to see the full list of our Project Management podcasts.

What is Project Management?

Project management is where business objectives are initiated, planned, executed, monitored, controlled, and delivered. When the objective is met, project management ensures the work to complete the activity is closed down efficiently so the organization can get maximum use out of the end result.
Of course, the practice of project management can be used for anything that needs to be delivered to certain constraints, such as meeting a deadline or sticking within a budget. That includes volunteer activities, and we even know of business leaders using PM techniques in their home lives to ensure their personal projects get finished!

The History of Project Management

So where did the profession start? Many of the project and program approaches in use today evolved from informal practices: after all, people have always needed to get things done, even if they didn’t call them projects or have the job title of project manager.

Over time, successive innovations in the realm of project and program management have led to how we manage strategic change today.

1896

The first version of what we now know as the Gantt chart was created by Karol Adamiecki in 1896. He called it a harmonogram and published it in 1931. Meanwhile, around the world, other engineers and professionals were using similar techniques.

1917

We don't exactly know when Henry Gantt started using the now-famous visual scheduling tool, but he was definitely using Gantt charts in 1917 to manage wartime production.

1957

The 'Critical Path Method' (CPM) was developed in the late 1950's. It was a joint effort between the DuPont Corporation and the Remington Rand Corporation and they used it for projects to do with managing plant maintenance.

1958

The 'Program Evaluation and Review Technique' (PERT), was developed by the U.S. Navy Special Projects Office in 1958. They worked with the Lockheed Corporation and Booz Allen Hamilton to come up with this approach as part of the work on the Polaris missile submarine program.

1962

The idea of a work breakdown structure came out of the Polaris missile program. In 1962, the US Department of Defense, NASA and the aerospace industry published a joint document describing the approach used -- which today we recognize as the WBS.

1965

IPMA, the International Project Management Association, became the world's first project management membership association when it was founded in 1965. At that time, it was called INTERNET. They later changed the name when something else with a bit more reach used the same term!

1969

A group of individuals came together in 1969 to form the Project Management Institute in the USA. Today, this membership organization supports professionals via its network of Chapters around the world.

1989

Earned Value Management as a concept had been around since the 1960's but it was considered difficult to use. Over time, the benefit of being able to combine project performance elements to show earned value became clearer. In 1989 EVM became part of the way program management and procurement was done in the US government after EVM as a discipline moved to the leadership of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition.

1995

Dr. Edward Hoffman founded the NASA Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL) in 1995. NASA is now seen as a leader in project team development.

2001

In 2001 the Agile Manifesto was written by a group of software enthusiasts who got together to discuss lightweight process. That meet up was the beginning of the history of agile and changed the face of modern projects, especially in IT.

2006

OSP International LLC was formed in 2006 with the objective of coaching project managers to prepare for their Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam. Since then, we've gone on to support professionals with a range of PMI certifications as well as credential maintenance by providing approved PDUs.

Why Do People Need Project Management?

The importance of project management is clear. Here are some of the reasons why project management is necessary.

  • It provides a standardized approach to completing work
  • It provides the governance required to get a quality result
  • It helps organizations prioritize their resources and efforts into what really matters
  • It reduces conflict and increases the chance of a successful result.
Still need convincing? Let's dig into those reasons.
  • It provides a standardized approach to completing work
    Studies show that carrying out work in a structured way leads to a better result, and you can probably see how that works from your own experience. Strong project control delivers better quality outputs, helps you use the expertise of the team in a more efficient way and meet the needs of a variety of different stakeholders.
  • It provides the governance required to get a quality result
    Governance provides oversight and accountability by making sure leaders are able to challenge the project director and team. It also ensures there are quality metrics in place and that the team is focusing on the right things to get the best result.
  • It helps organizations prioritize their resources and efforts into what really matters
    Business strategy is delivered through projects, so it's important your organization invests in the right ones. A mature approach to project control and delivery means business resources are spent on initiatives that drive the organization forward.
  • It reduces conflict and increases the chance of a successful result
    Processes, tools and techniques provide control and help you get where you want to be with the least amount of friction. Experienced leaders know that while you can always bend (or even break) the rules, a good understanding of project management best practices will help you get better results with less conflict. In turn, that helps manage expectations and leave stakeholders satisfied.

The 5 Project Management Processes

There are 5 project management process groups. These are:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing.

You may also hear these referred to as the 5 stages of project management. Every team guides their work through these project management steps, although the actual tasks involved may look a little different depending on the methodologies used. Below we review each of these process groups in more detail so you can see how they fit together to create a framework for delivering results.

Initiating

During the Initiating phase, the project manager puts together the project charter. This stage ensures the team has a clear vision for the project and the approvals required to begin delivering the work. The project management triangle of time, cost and scope is considered so the team have parameters to work to.

Planning

In the Planning process group the team comes together to work out how to deliver the work. They will produce a project management plan, using input from a range of experts and the PMO. The planning phase ensures the team understand the scope of the work and have a clear roadmap for what they need to do and how to do it.

Executing

Most of the project deliverables are produced in the Executing process group. It’s here that the majority of ‘doing’ work takes place. Everyone on the team completes the actions determined in the project planning stage. The team works with relevant stakeholders across the organization to ensure buy in and support for the changes being delivered.

Monitoring / Controlling

Monitoring and controlling is the act of making sure the work is carried out according to the plan. When the project manager notices something isn’t going quite right, they can make changes and take corrective action to realign the work. Project governance also falls into this process group as the project leader and sponsor provide oversight to ensure everything stays on track.

Closing

Finally, the last project management process group looks at Closing. This is the final part of the work. The deliverables are completed and handed over to the end customer. The team holds a PM lessons learned meeting to review how the project went and to consider improvements for the future. This is also the perfect time for a celebration to mark what was achieved!

Project Management Methodologies

There are many project management methodologies, frameworks and approaches that can be used to allow a multidisciplinary team to come together for a finite period of time to work on a shared objective.

Below are some common project management methods.

  • Agile
  • Scrum
  • Predictive
  • Hybrid

Managing a project starts long before anyone starts doing any ‘real’ work. There is a lot of planning, discussion, debate and effort that goes into eliciting requirements and making sure the project team can deliver the organization’s vision.

Projects are different from the day-to-day operations of your business because they deliver something unique and with a finite end. Even if the deliverable created by the change goes on to be used for many years, the project administration to deliver it stops once the deliverable is created.

Change initiatives therefore need a different management approach to business-as-usual work.

All methodologies share similar concepts and objectives of project management. Someone decides to do something, an individual or team works out how that work should be done, then the work is done and the effort stops. The exact tools, techniques and project management life cycle phases differ depending on the methodology in use. Choose the approach that best suits the way your team works and the culture of your organization.

Below we discuss the 4 core project management approaches in more detail. Which of these is most suitable for your next project?


Agile

‘Agile’ is actually a family of different approaches for managing work that share common principles. Being Agile and working in an Agile way means following the philosophy set out in the Agile Manifesto and living the values of flexibility and iterative design.

Scrum

Scrum project management sits within the Agile family and is a way of putting the Agile principles into practice. Scrum provides a process to deliver work in an iterative way and has been widely adopted by the software development industry because it allows for incremental delivery.

Predictive

Predictive methodologies are those where you plan the work at the beginning and then follow through on that plan. This approach works well for activities where you need to have a complete view of the whole scope and exactly what will be delivered. For example, project management in construction. These approaches are often called ‘Waterfall’ because of the way each life cycle phase feeds into the next phase until the work is completed and closed.

Hybrid

Hybrid methodologies take the available project management best practices and blend them together to create a unique and tailored solution. You might have a team using a predictive Waterfall approach but the software tasks are delivered by an IT team using Scrum, for example. Hybrid approaches are very flexible and can use the best of all methods to create a way of working that is totally bespoke to your organization.

Who Are Project Managers?

Project managers are people who lead projects. They are experienced in their industry and hold a range of internationally-recognized project management certifications including the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® or Project Management Professional (PMP)®. They work across every industry and vertical, supporting the delivery of organizational strategy by leading the work to make it happen.

You may also hear the team 'project leader'. As the profession matures and more companies adopt structured approaches, we are hearing that description more often. In fact, it fits better with the job role for someone who leads change. Whether you are constructing a huge oil and gas plant, improving an internal process or launching a new digital app, leadership is an essential part of making sure project work is completed effectively.

How to be Successful at Project Management

So what does it look like to be successful at leading project work? Here are the steps needed to deliver a great result every time.

  • Set the goal
  • Define requirements
  • Create a plan
  • Build the team
  • Do the work
  • Allow for change
  • Monitor progress
  • Manage risk
  • Handover the result
  • Close the project

It looks simple, doesn't it? Just a list of ten short tasks! However, when you start work you'll realize that everything needs to come together in harmony to ensure activities happen as expected, in the right order and with the least amount of friction. That's the skill in project management: making sure the work happens smoothly, despite the inevitable changes and challenges along the way.

Let's look now at those ten steps in more detail so you can see what's involved.

Step 1

Set the goal

The first thing to do to ensure project success is to establish the goal. What are your objectives? What are you delivering? You can normally find this information in the business case or project request.

Step 2

Define requirements

Now you know what is expected, break down those expectations, wants and needs into specific requirements. This is your project scope. It defines every activity you need to complete in order to reach the goal.

Step 3

Create a plan

With your list of requirements in hand, now you can plan how you are going to achieve them. Think about the resources, budget, team and time you need to be able to finish the work. Document your approach so everyone is clear: that becomes your project plan.

Step 4

Build the team

You can't complete all this work alone, so you need a team around you. Secure the resources who have the skills to do the work. Then make sure they have the tools necessary to complete their tasks. Bonus points if you can keep motivation high throughout the life of the project!

Step 5

Do the work

With your plan in place and your resources secured, it's time to get on with doing the work. Lead the team and remove any roadblocks in their way, but step back enough to let subject matter experts take the lead for their own activities. You can use a coaching leadership style to support the team.

Step 6

Allow for change

As Helmuth von Moltke reportedly said, "No plan survives contact with the enemy." In other words: plan for change because it's going to happen. Make sure you have a change management process in place to deal with the inevitable requests to do something different. And stay flexible! You can change pretty much anything given enough time, resources and budget.

Step 7

Manage risk

Risk management is important when you are making changes or launching something new because it helps you plan for what might go wrong. Make sure you are constantly identifying new risks and coming up with approaches to manage them.

Step 8

Monitor progress

Leading the work involves staying on top of the tasks and making sure everything is progressing to plan. Check in with the team regularly to help resolve any issues they might be having with their work and so you can report progress.

Step 9

Handover the result

Once the work is complete, you can hand it over to the receiving organization, whether that is a client or an internal department. Make sure you provide any user guides, training or support materials so they know how to get the best out of the change you have delivered.

Step 10

Close the project

Finally, now the customer has their product, you can close the project. Carry out a project review (also known as lessons learned or retrospective) to assess how everything went. Finalize any procurements and archive your documentation and plans. Then celebrate what you have achieved!

There is always something you can do better, and organizations constantly strive to improve project management maturity. You can maintain good project management by developing a learning culture. Look at the process for lessons learned or retrospectives and actively implement what comes out of those discussions.

What processes can you improve? How can you adapt your methodology to be even more effective? The answers to these questions will help improve project management performance and give you and your team every chance of success.

What are you going to learn today with our range of podcast interviews?

Project managers and leaders actually make things happen. We're the drivers behind the plan. While business journalists love to go on and on about the entrepreneurial CEOs and their breakthrough ideas, the fact is that a very smart project team led by a project manager was the true impetus behind the actual delivery or execution of those clever ideas and that is a key distinction that gets overlooked a lot of times. People just see the cool, shiny ideas but they miss the whole hardworking, sweaty backend of innovation kind of thing, the hard work that actually makes the actual product at the end of the day.
Paul R. Williams, PMP

PM Podcast Episodes on Project Management

Below are just a few selected PM Podcast episodes about topics related to managing projects.

Project Scope Management: The Secret to Project Success

In this interview with Karthik Ramamurthy we discuss his findings into how project scope management will make or break your project. Listen in as we discuss the successful scope management techniques from across continents. You will discover how ineffective requirements gathering, poor scope definition, gold plating, and uncontrolled creep inevitably lead to project failure. And to counteract this, we analyze, adapt, and apply seven proven scope management techniques to increase the probability of completing the work successfully.
Karthik Ramamurthy
Karthik Ramamurthy

Developing Your Project Assumptions List

Beth Spriggs shares why project assumptions can get dangerous and talks about common assumptions you might find on your project. In this interview, you'll learn how to develop and expand your assumptions list. Managing the list is a key - and yet often overlooked - part of managing expectations and ensuring work completes successfully.
Beth Spriggs and Cornelius Fichtner
Beth Spriggs and Cornelius Fichtner

Lessons Learned Management Techniques

Lessons learned is no doubt a term you have come across. But how do we get the most out of the effort involved? What process do we follow? What lessons learned project management techniques can you use? Are all documented lessons learned equally valuable? In this podcast, Elizabeth Harrin shares practical tips for ensuring your projects benefit from lessons learned.
Elizabeth Harrin
Elizabeth Harrin

How to Spot the Warning Signs & Rescue a Troubled Project

Learn to recognize the warning signs of troubled projects with Kristy Tan Neckowicz and Connie Inman. Stop your initiative becoming a failed project management case study with these tips! We discuss approaches to right-sizing your processes and share practical tips on how to keep your next project “on track” to successful delivery.
Kristy Tan Neckowicz, Connie Inman and Cornelius Fichtner
Kristy Tan Neckowicz, Connie Inman and Cornelius Fichtner

Summary

Leading projects is a hugely rewarding job, with plenty of job prospects and a positive outlook for the future. As project professionals, we have the opportunity to use best practice tools and techniques to shape our environments and make a real impact through our work.

Project management is the way organizations deliver their strategic plans, big and small. It is a growing and vibrant business area, with plenty to learn and a wide variety of areas where you can specialize if you want to. We'd love to part of your journey!

Project Management for Beginners and Experts

Going beyond Project Management Professional (PMP)®, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®

Copyright © 2008 - 2020 OSP International LLC.
PMI, PMIef, the PMI Registered Education Provider logo, the PMIef logo, PMBOK, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CAPM, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, and PMI-PBA are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.