Welcome to the world of project management! The profession of project management is relatively new compared to other avenues of work; however, project management has been going on for a long time. For instance, examining how the pyramids were built, one can see the basic tools and techniques of project management. Specialized teams working on complex pieces of work completed the pyramids over many years of sweat and blood.

Modern project management as a profession really came into being about 30–40 years ago. Tools like Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) and Critical Path Method (CPM) were developed in the 1950s to help people organize work that was complex and non-routine. In the 1970s, many new ideas and theories crucial to project management were developed.

As a result, the awareness grew that work was changing from assembly line, simplistic production to smaller, team-based, and more complex production. In fact, the transformation to project management focused work is still going on today in most industries, economies, and countries, especially as teams deliver outcomes that provide value to organizations and stakeholders.

Management experts estimate that most Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 companies use teams to get work done. Compare that with the early 1990s, when a minority of the S&P 500 used project teams, and you can see that work has changed drastically in the past 15–30 years. If organizations use team-based designs, you can rest assured that they are also using project management to accomplish work. Project management authorities state that project management is accomplished through teams. Thus, teams become the conduit through which new organizational work is accomplished and goals are achieved.

Teaming in project management is unique. When we typically think of teams, we think of sports. However, sports teams are very different from project teams. Think about it: On sports teams, the coach primarily controls who is on the team, who plays, and the strategy to “win” the ballgame. The goal is to win. The structure of competing is usually the same from one game to the next. The players also do not change much over a short period of time. The coach, or leader, is responsible for winning.

Figure 1.1: “Winning” in Project Management is more complex than winning a ballgame.

On project teams, however, the project leader supervises whoever has been placed on the team, everyone gets to play, and the goals for the project team are many and can conflict. Winning is not as easy as sports to define, as work may require sacrificing one goal for another. Imagine a sports team playing to limit the “environmental impact” of the sports franchise rather than to win ballgames. If this were the goal of the sports franchise, one would doubt if cars would be allowed at the ballpark on game day because of the pollution they would create. What would that do to owner revenues?

Project management teamwork is much more complex than that of a sports team when the two are compared, and this is also true of teams in organizations that have long-term objectives. In this chapter, we will introduce what a project is and is not. We will explain how projects move through predictable stages of development and then offer some insight into the important characteristics of projects.

The remaining chapters of this book more fully explain the intricacies of project management. When you have read this book and grasped the meaning of the key concepts of project management, then you will be ready to not only work on a project team, but possibly lead a group of individuals at the leading edge of modern organizations.

One of the most difficult skills you will ever need in your professional career is to work successfully on a project management team. While the delivery of projects is not a difficult topic to understand, the implementation of project management is where challenges usually lie.

Before you can implement a project through a team, you must understand the basic concepts of project management and what a project is and is not.