An updated version of
a paper first published
in PM World Today, February 2008
©Randall L. Englund.
Published here June 2008.

Introduction | The Project Management Institute's Work | Definitions of Project Success
The Process of Project Management | Working Within Constraints
 Be Careful Making Decisions Under Pressure | The Project Manager's Garden

Randy Englund is an executive consultant for the Englund Project Management Consultancy and is a Professional Associate for the Stanford Advanced Project Management (SAPM) program, specializing in converting strategy into action and effective project management offices. Randy is co-author of Creating an Environment for Successful Projects (Jossey-Bass, 2004), Creating the Project Office (2003), and Project Sponsorship (2006). He learned most of his lessons as a senior project manager at Hewlett-Packard and General Electric. He now provides coaching to management and teams about their project management culture. Contact him via email at and on the web at


A participant in a workshop asked me: "What is Not a Project?" "Not much" was my answer. This person got it, that most everything we do, whether launching a space shuttle, developing a new product, introducing a new service, or responding to a request, can be viewed as a project. Moreover, as often as not, a project manager has to influence without authority, and it has also been said that we use only 10-20% of our mental capacity. In a similar way, I posit that we use only a small portion of our influence capacity, maybe only 10%. If you could double your influence capacity, thereby improving your capabilities by 10% just imagine the impact!

More gets accomplished, there is less stress, partners cooperate instead of resist, work is more fun - these are a few of the potential benefits. You can tame the naturally occurring chaos, not by making it go away, but by looking for patterns in human behavior and by applying a systematic set of process steps that lead to higher probability of project success. Because you apply this approach to more activities and improve your overall return on investments by treating everything as a project, you find yourself asking the same question, "What is not a project?"

Let's also assume that you have to communicate with others as part of your livelihood. You may be inundated by questions or requests for status. By understanding how people use the information, such as to make decisions or take a different course of action, you provide the right information at the right time to answer stakeholder questions, thereby facilitating progress instead of impeding it.

So if most of the things you do are projects, doesn't it make sense to learn about project management? But your bosses got the job done when they were at this point in their careers without all this stuff, right? Yes, they often did it by brute force, by the seat of their pants, by super-human effort of many people over long hours, possibly with a few "dead bodies" in their wake. They probably didn't even know there is a better way. So, why not apply project management to most everything we do?

While project management has been around since the construction of the pyramids, or earlier for all we know, the profession of project management is relatively recent. It has come to the fore only over the last four or five decades, but especially in the 80's 90's. Project management now applies to a wide range of initiatives from new product development to daily tasks.

Today, advanced college degrees and certification in project management are now available, and more sharing happens via newsletters, journals, web sites and conferences. In essence, your boss (or customer) may not have had the benefit of this explicit knowledge and may be expecting you to follow the old story. So now you have a new story to follow.


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