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What is project management?

This is a question that could be answered at least one thousand different ways. I recall finishing my bachelors degree thinking I want to go get that MBA so I can run projects. Little did I realize (at the time) the MBA was an MBA and unless the concentration was project management (which really didn’t exist as an MBA concentration to the degree it does today).

Over the years I have had people ask me questions related to finance, IT, construction, contracts trying to clarify what exactly is project management? They wonder if they have done enough of it to qualify as a project manager?

I proceed to explain it’s not just finance, IT, construction, contracts, etc….It can be a mile wide and an inch deep, an inch deep and a mile high. Ten knowledge areas, Scope, Scheduling, Budgeting, Quality, Resources, Communication, Risk (not just bad, but good too!), Contracts, Stakeholders and ultimately blending it all together as applicable. As applicable varies from project to project.

Project management is life. We get so deep in life we often don’t see the projects from the details.

Recently over the 4th of July I was at the small town where I grew up in Kansas. I was hanging out with my dad Duane (The Rock) Johnson, but that’s another story. This small town with a normal population bout 4,500 increases to about 15,000 on the Fourth of July. It also increases population significantly in the fall during the oz festival, at one point bringing some of the remaining members of the Wizard of Oz movie. Events like these in this small town that I love and call home are driven by project management. That’s the funny part, I just witnessed these things growing up, not really considering them project management.

Over the Fourth of July I was able to see project and program management at its best in small town America.

Scope: What holiday events are planned? Carnival, parade, Military tribute, governor and other politician appearances, supporting activities for items like the carnival, parade, etc.

Scheduling: What scope needs to occur in what or at what time by what resources?

Budgeting: Getting cost estimates for the work, figuring out the timing of the expenditures

Quality: What standards do we work to and how do we attain them?

Resources: What people and non-personnel are needed to accomplish project goals

Communications: Appropriate communication about all stakeholders as necessary

Risk: Taking steps to minimize or eliminate bad risk and make the most of good risk (Opportunities)

Procurement: What contracts do we need for work that we are outsourcing?

Stakeholders: What people and groups are impacted by the project, or projects and in what way?

Integration: Blending all things together as needed.


As you can see there are a number of pieces that must come together as applicable. Like a smooth running machine, if everything is going well, all is good. When it’s not so smooth running, the out of alignment pieces are usually pretty obvious.

The image with this blog comes from the Wamego Kansas fireworks display. Ran by a group of volunteers, over 30 minutes long. Welcome to Kansas, Welcome to Project Management.




Tony Johnson

CEO & Founder

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