Project management focuses on a project. A project is an undertaking that has a beginning and an end, and is carried out to meet established goals within cost, schedule and quality objectives.
Project management brings together and optimizes the resources necessary to successfully complete the project. These resources include the skills, the talents and cooperative efforts of a team of people.
The concept of project management as a discipline was developed to manage the US space program in the early 1960s. Its practice expanded rapidly into government, the military, and industry. Today we will find its principles applied to program management, and construction management.
Project management differs in two significant ways. First, while department or managers of other organizational units expect their departments to exist indefinitely, project managers focus on an undertaking with a finite life span. Second, projects frequently need resources on a temporary basis, whereas permanent organizations try to utilize resources full time. The sharing of resources frequently leads to conflict and requires skillful negotiation to see that projects get the necessary resources to meet objectives throughout the life cycle of a project.
Each project moves through a predictable life cycle of four phases, which each phase calling for different skills from the project manager. The phases of a project life cycle are:
- Conceiving and defining the project
- Planning the project
- Implementing the plan
- Completing and evaluating the project.
Communication skills permeate the entire process of project management. Successful project managers communicate effectively with their clients, team members, and those upon whom they depend for goods and services. As a project manager, you must share information, establish clear expectations, and build a group of people into a smooth functioning team.
Effective communication in face to face settings, on the telephone, and by email is inherent to the use of delegation and negotiation.
Various types of managers exist because they fill special needs. For example, the marketing manager specializes in distributing a product or service and the financial manager ensures adequate funds are available to keep the organization reliable. Project managers have many of the same responsibilities as functional managers: they plan, schedule, motivate and control. But project managers are unique because they manage temporary, no repetitive activities and frequently act independently of the forma organization.
Compression of the product life cycle is perhaps the most significant driving force behind the demand for project managers and management of projects. Speed is becoming and important mode for gaining competitive advantage. Speed also increases the number of new products developed each year, and thus, more projects.
Most organizations work on many projects at once. This environment creates the problems of project interdependency and the need to share resources. Resource sharing also leads to multitasking. Multitasking involves starting and stopping work on one task to go and work on another project, and then returning to the work on the original task.
Both the project management structure and the culture of the organization constitute major elements of the environment in which projects are implemented.
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