Chapter 2: Deconstructing the Paradigm
What is Project Management?
The Project Management Institute (PMI) in 1996 defined "project" as one of
two forms of organized work. "Organizations perform work. Work generally involves
operations or projects although the two may overlap ... [so] a project is a temporary
endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service."
Today PMI defines project management as: "the application of knowledge, skills,
tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements". As
such, the terms "project" and "project management" continue to be considered in
a very broad sense to encompass all manner of non-routine undertakings.
The act of "projecting" suggests we have a concept in mind, a preconceived
notion of the outcome. This is a "reductionist projection" where we know the answer
and must merely organize things to make it happen.
In some projects, this is exactly the case. Most building construction projects
for example feature an artist's rendering of what the building will look like.
One can see the picture coming into focus through the course of the project, floor
by floor. This is fundamentally an organizing archetype, i.e. a framework that
puts tasks in a particular order or arrangement.
No, what is Project Management really?
Well, it may have become all things to all people. The projection of a preconception
and the notion of organizing the project environment to achieve the outcome are
We know intuitively that in developmental and transformational initiatives,
the intended outcomes need be studied while we are in implementation. The learning
that unfolds tests the initial hypothesis, allowing adjustment while underway,
effectively allowing us to steer to a destination that wasn't apparent from the
outset. This dynamic is in conflict with projection.
Project Management is:
a. A comfortable paradigm
b. Simple. Familiar and generally accepted
c. A tool to organize the unorganizable
d. A huge industry
e. All of the above
Borrowing from Einstein's adage, "things should be made as simple as possible,
but not simpler", it is suggested that the application of the project management
tool is often a matter of making things simpler than they are. Your road map may
be easy to read, it's just not the one for your area.
1. A Guide
to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, PMBOK Guide, Project Management
Institute, 1996. pp 1-2.
2. Project Management institute, https://www.pmi.org/about/learn-about-pmi/what-is-project-management
3. "The Ultimate Quotable Einstein", Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, 2010