2.0 Foundations

2.1. Introduction

Management is the art and science of achieving goals by the means of resources such as Manpower, Money, Methods, Material, and Machinery (5Ms).  This definition applies to all different kinds of management such as strategic management, operations management, functional/departmental management, product/brand management, program management, project management, etc.  The difference between these types/domains of management is their purpose and context.

To answer what is project management, we have to first define what a project is? A project is a temporary (has a defined beginning and end date, and scope and resources[1]) group activity geared towards producing a unique result such as a product or service. Due to the uniqueness of the project (i.e., not being an ongoing operation) stakes are high and for it to be successful it must satisfy its core constraints (i.e., time, budget, scope, quality, and stakeholder requirements) while it conforms to both the principles of project management and the norms and standards of the organization it is carried in.

In summary, project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique end result and has uncertainties with its end result, tasks, and due to being new requires more dedicated and careful planning than ongoing work which enjoys support from existing procedures and can catch up on mistakes due to its ongoing and repetitive nature.  Project management has different organization scope starting from individual level all the way to multiple organization units.

Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. It’s a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals — and thus, better compete in their markets[2].

Projects are created to respond to needs, create new services or products, or bring about changes, or generate new knowledge. Examples of projects include but are not limited to:

  • Creating a new product or service
  • Changing operational structures to respond to regulatory changes, market shifts, or customer requests
  • Developing or acquiring new capabilities, equipment, or organizational units
  • Constructing a new plant, a new hospital building, a bridge, a website for a public event
  • Develop and rollout online and distance learning programs for a traditional brick and mortar community college


Project managers are individuals that accept full responsibility (regardless of authority level) and play the important role of fulfilling strategic goals by utilizing scarce resources such as shared experts in the organization, money, management attention, and technology. Although understanding and employing commonly accepted best practice knowledge and tools improves the efficiency of project managers but effective project managers have the following competencies:


  • Knowledge: Refers to knowledge of both project as well as product management.
  • Performance: Or in short application of the project and product management knowledge. A project manager might be very knowledgeable in project management but due to procrastination and over analysis of issues lack the capability to perform based on them.
  • Personal: Refers to the manner the project manager behaves and how others react to her/him. You might be the most educated person in your company in terms of project management know-how and be very effective in formulating them for action, but due to your low tolerance for error from your team members disqualify yourself from managing large and/or high stake projects.   The following are some of the better known interpersonal skills of effective project managers:
    • Motivation and influencing: Often enough you are in charge of a project without the luxury of dedicated resources and high authority level. You have to compete with operational managers with full control over the resources you need with nothing more than your motivation skills
    • Communicating: Most of the time of a project manager is spent communicating with others. The level of your communication effectiveness will have a direct positive or negative effect on the success of your projects.
    • Political and cultural awareness: You and your project exist in a broader space of your organization. To separate yourself from the power dynamics, shifts in priorities, norms and culture of your organization you will increase the difficulty of getting resources, communicating, and completing your projects.
    • Team + Trust building: Whether you have a dedicated project team or have to win support and help from others, your ability to build trust and create teams out of individuals can easily make or break your projects.
    • Decision making: Most project managers are tasked with complex projects with no budget, resources, team members, or political clout handed to them. They have to get the support and contribution of others through the traits described above, and logically speaking such scarce input into their project has to be utilized in the outmost efficient way.  This is what the decision making refers to.  Imagine you are a project manager and after weeks of lobbying have managed to win over a senior engineer in your company.  If you don’t do your research on what you could do to maximize the output from the Sr. engineer, you will damage the project.  Through critical thinking you are able to find out which portions of the work that needs the input of the Sr. engineer can be done by junior staff so that your limited time with him is spent on solving problems that only staff at his caliber can, rather than having him design parts of your product that anyone could do.
    • Negotiation + conflict management: Plain and simple your role is to finalize a project that satisfies the highest number of key stakeholders.
    • Coaching + Leadership: This refers to your ability to get the most out of human resources assigned to the project (dedicated or not).


In summary, project manager is an individual that is equipped with the know-how of commonly accepted principles of project management, is effective in utilizing them, and has a result-oriented mindset and drives projects to success by securing the necessary resources regardless of authority level.

Project managers must work within their organization’s structure and procedures to lead their projects to success.  Type of the organization (hierarchical, projectized, or in between) does have a major impact on the role of the project manager and the characteristics of the projects themselves.  Regardless of the context, project managers are responsible for the success or failure of the project.  As the section listing the personal traits of the project manager illustrated, the bulk of what project manager does is interacting with the project stakeholders[3].  The following roles/entities are those who often influence projects:

By Organization-level:


·                       Executive management Members of the board, C-Level Executives, President, CEO, etc.  In the next chapter we are going to discuss different types of organization and their impact on the authority of project managers in the organization.  In project-management friendly organizations executive management structure is partitioned based on project/programs and not functional.
·                       Senior management Managers with decision making power (budget, hire/fire, starting/ending projects, defining project goals/requirements, etc.).
·                       Project Management Office (PMO) It is an office that specializes in projectized work.  Its power can range from providing an advisory role to project managers to being in total control of project management activities in the organization (initiation, control, and termination/closing of projects).

By function:

·                       Program manager A person orchestrating multiple projects towards the program’s end result.
·                       Functional/departmental managers Manage a specialized unit on an ongoing basis.  Examples are Accounting manager, IT manager, HR manager, etc.
·                       Supervisors They are the line managers in charge of floor-level staff and subject matter experts (SMEs).
· Project manager The person responsible for delivering the project’s end result.
·                       Project coordinator Has less authority and decision making power than the project manager and assists her/him in management of the project.
·                       Subject matter experts (SMEs) Are non-manager member of the organization that provide specialized service to others.  Such as cost accountant, quality assurance analyst, etc.
·                       Operational units staff Employees staffed by and loyal to functional organizational units.  Examples are accountant, call center supervisor, quality control technician, R&D scientist, etc.
·                       Other organization members The work of the project will often depend on the level of cooperation, knowledge, and interest of other organization members not listed in the above categories.

By Value/Supply Chain:

·                       Vendors Are stakeholders paid by the organization to carry out portions or the entire project?
·                       Competitors Those you are competing against.  Sometimes your actions are in response to their market positioning practices.
·                       Your industry/substitute industries For instance introduction in media streaming services such as YouTube®, Hulu®, and Netflix® had a direct impact on the strategic positioning of the video rental industry and companies such as Blockbuster®[4].
·                       Customers/Clients/Users Are stakeholders that pay your organization to carry out portions or all of a selected project of theirs?


The Project Team:
Team members can be assigned to projects full-time/dedicated,  part-time or on an ad-hoc basis

·                       Project management staff Project management staff are referred to the members of the team that perform project management (planning, scheduling, reporting, risk management, and administrative support/control) tasks as opposed to product of the project management.
·                       Project staff Those responsible for performing the product of the project tasks (i.e., creating the product of the project deliverables)
·                       Others Any combination of stakeholder members from the lists presented in previous lists.

Project managers have to assess their organization and determine what the power dynamics within their organization are and continually monitor the above roles and their influence on the success of the project in order to look after the project’s interests.

In the following scenario you can see how some of these roles can influence projects:

You are a seasoned programmer/analyst and were recently promoted to the project manager role.  On the day you were given the good news you were briefed on your first project with the following characteristics:


·                       Timeline We are a year behind the mandated launch date [Who did set this date? The sponsor? The steering committee? Other senior managers? Functional Managers? Is it a project defined at executive, senior, or functional level of the organization?]


·                       Budget You are not directly responsible for the budget of the project.  If you need anything beyond the resources assigned to you, approval of the IT department is needed [Functional manager has decision making power)


·                       Human resources You don’t have hire/fire authority.  Resources who will become involved in this project report to others (i.e., they report to Functional managers) [Is there a possibility of hiring vendors to carry out portions of the work if internal resources are not available?]


·                       Specifications/Requirements The goal of the project is to reverse engineer a desktop software package developed by the Singapore’s office to a web based system catering to our American, European, and Asia-Pacific offices [Stakeholder community].


·                       Support Your role is to get the non-dedicated resources in Singapore office that created the desktop package and the IT resources in our Canadian office that creates most of the company’s web solutions to cooperate.  Your manager is new to the organization and doesn’t have much clout with either of these two offices.  You have to use your people skills and drum up senior management support in order to put our project on top of these two very busy office’s queue of priorities [stakeholder community, senior management, sponsor, functional manager, project manager, does your organization have a PMO so that you can get support from?]

As you can see the project doesn’t exist in a vacuum and has to be analyzed in relation to its context.  We went over typical roles with influence over projects and in the next section are going to investigate the impact the organization type has on project management and in specifics to the role and power of the project manager.

[1] Reference: http://www.PMI.org/About-Us/About-Us-What-is-Project-Management.aspx

[2] Reference: http://www.PMI.org/About-Us/About-Us-What-is-Project-Management.aspx

[3] Stakeholders are any party, person or legal/organizational entity with influence over the project that would benefit or loose from the success or failure of the project. The tenth and newest project management knowledge area (added in PMBOK® Guide –Fifth Edition) is Project Stakeholder Management.

[4] For further reading on competitive strategy, refer to “Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, 1980” by Michael Porter.  This book is a classical text on Competitive Strategic Management and is thought in most MBA programs.

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