Entrepreneur’s Diary #65 What Exactly Is – Project Management? (An Attempt at Definition-I)

In my last entrepreneur’s diary, I gave you a few citations from the article

Project Have a Detrimental Effect on Your Enterprise!

by Jens Hoffmann in 23actions.com.

On me, the article had an electrifying effect. Does project management still do justice to a modern understanding of enterprises and society – and to our concept of humanity?
Perhaps the “New World“ currently rising over the horizon needs totally different organizational patterns? With no projects and therefore no project managers, but instead an agile transformation of the entire enterprise?

Maybe we will have to solve all our problems together if we want to survive together?

If I am confronted with such difficult questions, the first thing I do is try to understand the terminology of the discussion.

As usual, I start with wikipedia. What is Project Management? Here is what I find:

Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing, and managing resources to achieve specific goals (Projekten).

Well, I can see that this does not really help. Planning, organizing, securing and manageing. That does not sound too bad. But what is being planned, secured and managed? A project! In that case, it must be an entity that can be subjected to planning organizing and managing.

Now I know: everything that can be planned, secured, organized and managed is a project! Is that a definition which would convince you? For me, it is not much help. So I continue reading in wikipedia. It says:

A project is a temporary endeavor (Vorhaben) with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables), undertaken to meet unique goals (Ziel) and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value…. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time, and budget.

So here we have it: the project rests on the columns goals and objectives. I have to proceed. There is a hyperlink on endeavor. However, you do not get an article if you follow it. The article must have been removed. Is it possible that the term “project“ already starts getting mushy at this point? Because we have no endeavor.

No! After all, I already know that:

Any endeavor that can be planned, organized, secured and managed is a project!

Now I will take a closer look at the second column, the “goal“. Here, too, wikipedia is doing poorly. The best I can find is:

The term goal or objective (greek τέλος [telos], Latin finis) is a desired result  someone envirions for the future.  Mostly, it includes that the future state should be different from the present state , as well as worth wishing for. Thus, a goal is a efined and desired final destinatio of a process, mostly involving human  activity . ‘Goal’ often means the success  of a  project or some more or less strenuous work. Examples: the destination of a journey, quality goals  , entrepreneurial goals  or managing to best a certain time or other marker in an athletic  competition.

The word future plays an important role. And – according to the definition – the goal is always at the end of a process. That is a totally new term (incidentally, there is a hyperlink on it in the definition). I look up the term process  and get a long entry – which does not satisfy me.

So what is the difference between a process and a project? Is a project goal the same as a process goal? Or is there no such thing as a process goal, but just a process result (a typing mistake in wikipedia?). Or is the project goal just an attempt at formulating the desired/planned process result.

In this sense, might the process be the real incarnation of a fictive project? And is it then the job of the project manager to combine fiction and reality?
Now I have the solution of the problem:

Every process that can be planned, organized, secured and managed is a project. All you have to do is make the result of the process your project goal.

🙂 An absolute win-win situation.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder. Don’t we have a highly interlinked and multi-dimentional context sensitive process network in all the worlds we know? Is it possible that same network might be more efficiently and more successfully changed with totally different approaches, instead of planning, organizing, securing and managing? Well, at least I get more and more the suspicion that this is so.

Consequently, wikipedia is not really any help. Wikipedia obviously has a hard time with project management. That is not a good sign. I will, however, not give up. Instead, I will look and see what the words “project“ and “manage“ actually mean in English. I presume that they were originally Latin terms, but I know no Latin.

(Translated by EG)

You will find all the articles of my entrepreneur’s diary if you click here: Drehscheibe

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