The Definition Of A Project

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There is a rich variety of projects to be found in our society. Although some may argue that the construction of the Tower of Babel or the Egyptian pyramids were some of the first "projects," it is probable that cavemen formed a project to gather the raw material for mammoth stew. It is certainly true that the construction of Boulder Dam and Edison's invention of the light bulb were projects by any sensible definition. Modern project management, however, is usually said to have begun with the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb. In its early days, project management was used mainly for very large, complex research and development (R & D) projects like the development of the 1CBM and similar military weapon systems. Massive construction programs were also organized as projects—the construction of dams, ships, refineries, and freeways, among others.

As the techniques of project management were developed, mostly by the military, the use of project organization began to spread. Private construction firms found that project organization was helpful on smaller projects, such as the bulld-* ing of a warehouse or an apartment complex. The automotive companies used pro ject organization to develop new automobile models. Both General Electric and Pratt & Whitney used it to develop new jet aircraft engines for the airlines as well as the Air Force. Project management has even been used to develop new models of shoes and ships (though possibly not sealing wax). More recently, the use of project management by international organizations, and especially organizations producing services rather than products, has grown rapidly. Advertising campaigns, global mergers, and capital acquisitions are often handled as projects, and the methods have spread to the nonprofit sector. Teas, weddings, Scout-o-ramas, fund drives, election campaigns, parties, and recitals have all made use of project management. Most striking has been the widespread adoption of project management techniques for the development of computer software.

In discussions of project management, it is sometimes useful to make a distinction between such terms as project, program, task, and work packages. The military, the source of most of these terms, generally uses the term program to refer to an exceptionally large, long-range objective that is broken down into a set of projects. These projects are further divided into tasks, which are, in turn, split into work packages that are themselves composed of work units. But exceptions to this hierarchical nomen clature abound. The Manhattan Project was a huge "program," but a "task force" was created to investigate the many potential futures of a large steel company.

In the broadest sense, a project is a specific, finite task to be accomplished. Whether large- or small-scale or whether long- or short-run is not particularly relevant. What is relevant is that the project be seen as a unit. There are, however, some attributes that characterize projects.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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