… and what is not?
When talking about projects, you should know what is a project … and what is not. Not everything we call “project” actually is one. We need to meet certain criteria for our project to become really a project. Which ones? Read on!
What do you think? Is this a project… or not? Is Logina right? Do we need a SMART goal (read my blog post “Setting SMART goals sucks!“), a team and a use so that a sequence of tasks becomes a project? Do we even need a project manager?
You want help in formulating a great goal? Then download our SMART+ Goal Setting Guide and find out what the “Plus” in our system means. 7 easy steps will guide you to a perfectly formulated goal within 5 minutes.
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In French for example, somebody could say “J’ai un projet” (I have a project). But this does not necessarily mean that this person is actually managing a project. She or he could just have the intention to do something. Like knitting a pullover. Would you say that knitting a pullover is a project? Probably not. Well, I would say, it depends. So …
Let’s have a look on how we could define the word “project”
David Allen (Getting Things Done):
“Any and all those things that need to get done within the next few weeks or months that require more than one action step to complete.“
„An individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.“
„A project is an individual or collaborative enterprise, possibly involving research or design, that is carefully planned, usually by a project team, to achieve a particular aim.“
“Planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain cost and other limitations.”
PMI (Project Management Institute):
„A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.“
Now… Let’s get back to our two examples, buying a car and knitting a pullover. Following the above quoted definitions, both are projects. Aren’t they?
The Cactus answers
For us, for a sequence of tasks to become a project, we need:
A project needs a clearly defined goal. Just in case you don’t know what SMART goal setting is, read my post! And when a project needs a goal, it also needs an end. A project ends when the project’s objective (or goal) is reached.
A project is innovative. Means, you will do something you’ve never done before under the same circumstances or in the same way. Means, to mass-produce a car is not a project, to develop a new car is one. An event you organize from time to time at different places with different themes, speakers, sponsors etc. is a project. The weekly departmental meetings are not.
For us, a project always is a journey into an uncertain future. Nobody can predict exactly whether we will reach the objective, how we will do it and under which circumstances. But this is the reason why managing projects is so exciting, isn’t it?
What can – but doesn’t need to – be part of a project?
A project is mostly limited in time, I mean it should be. It starts at a certain point and it ends at a certain point in time. It can run for several years but it always comes to the point that it’s objective will be reached (see above) and the project terminates. As long as we’ve set a SMART+ (don’t forget the PLUS) goal, we will know exactly when the moment comes that the objectives are reached. No need to define a date except for an event taking place at a predefined calendar date. By the way, a project can also be terminated when the objectives cannot be reached any more or when the project has lost it’s use. However, a project has an end. Full stop. And then, you can celebrate or weep, or both.
You can do your project all by yourself as well as with a team. Even when realizing the project all alone, its worth spending a bit of time in the project planning. Because even if it is only for you, you still want to reach the goal you’ve set for yourself, don’t you?
And hey! Its more fun with a team, isn’t it?
By the way, it is rare to find projects without any team. Unless you live all alone in the woods and your project consists in building a cabin with own cut down trees. Sooner or later a team will come into play. And that team needs to be managed. That’s why learning some team management basics is a good investment.
Want an example? You want to go into business for yourself and you need to create a company. See? Creating a company is a project. You won’t and you can’t do all by yourself. So you will probably hire the following people into you team: a web designer/ developer to create your website, an advocate for all this legal stuff coming with a company creation, the manufacturer of the product you want to sell, perhaps the banker who keeps your business bank account and so on and so forth. This quickly amounts to a sizeable number of people who will accompany your project on a more or less long part of it’s way. All these people are part of your team. I’m sure you noticed: team members can also be external service providers.
A use or meaning
Logina missed the use of Confusina’s project. Asking for the use or meaning of a project is legitimate and important but only for yourself and perhaps for your closest team members. The meaningfulness of your project’s objective will give you motivation. If you and your team know the objective but not the why, sooner or later you will meet motivational issues. That’s why it is so important for you to think over the question “Why am I doing it?” and to write down the result of your thoughts. And don’t forget, it is completely irrelevant what other people outside your project team and the directly concerned think and say, for example your aunty, your neighbour or the nanny of your kids. They don’t understand, they don’t like? So what? It is your project, not theirs! Always doing what other people like will not help you to reach your goal.
Sales, capital investment volume, etc.
All this can – but don’t necessarily need to – be part of a project. The amount of the realized sales in a project for example does in no means say anything about the complexity of the project. Don’t care about this and don’t base your motivation on figures. By the way, I’ve done really exciting projects helping me to develop personally and generating no or very few sales. On the other hand, I’ve managed projects with a several million investment volume and billions sales. Were they more exciting, more challenging, more fun? Not at all! So, don’t let your head be turned with monetary figures and don’t look down on others only because they don’t handle big figures.
A project consisting in organizing the summer party of your kid’s school can be much more exciting and meaningful than a big figure automotive project. And here we are again at the use or meaning question.
Now its your turn!
So … Is Logina right? Is Confusina’s “project” really not a project? What do you think? Tell us in the comments!
If you’re not sure what SMART goal setting is, then please read my blog post.
If you’re completely new to project management, then chose a small manageable project and start with setting a goal. On our tools page, you will find a workbook which will help you to set a perfectly formulated goal for your project. In my blog posts over the coming months, you will learn everything you need for your project, and more.
Download our SMART+ Goal Setting Guide!
7 easy steps will guide you to a perfectly formulated goal within 5 minutes.
‚Workbook How to get your goals right in only 5 minutes‘!
Questions or feedback on this post? Please write it in the comments!