Setting the Standard: Project Management Comes Of Age
In the overall scheme of the world at large, project management is a relatively young concept. It dates back to the late 1950s, when the U.S. Department of Defense decided that things just weren’t developing quickly enough. To nudge things along, they assigned experts to discover the most efficient processes for getting work done with the highest possible quality. The result: a whole new field was born – project management.
So What the Heck IS Project Management?
In a nutshell, project management is a self-defining term. It’s the ultimate combination of all the activities necessary to successfully shepherd a project from initiation through completion. Those activities include planning and organizing the work; assessing, acquiring and allocating the resources needed to complete the work; assigning, supervising and managing the tasks associated with project goals; and defining and meeting quality standards at every step of the process. In the fifty years since those early days, the science (or is it an art?) of project management has grown as various organizations developed their own designs for assuring that projects under their control meet the highest standards of efficiency and quality.
Why Choose a Standards-Based Project Management Methodology?
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts at standardizing the project management process with best practices, processes and theories – and because the process that works best in building submarines may not be the most efficient method of building a content management system, there are differing standards for different disciplines. The end result is that no matter what type of project you are trying to pull together, a standard framework of best practices approved by a professional body already exists. While it’s possible to develop your own standards from scratch, it’s an exercise in reinventing the wheel – and your organization’s time is far better spent in choosing an applicable framework and adapting it to your own needs ( see also Turbit, Neville, Project Management and Software Development Methodology (6/1/2005) )
The real trick is to sift through the various sets of standards to find the one that best suits your organization and needs.
The Role of Standards in a Maturing Industry
Jeanette Cabanis of the Project Management Institute said in an 1999 article:
The dictionary lists these synonyms for standard: benchmark, criterion, measure, and touchstone. The central meaning shared by all these nouns is “a point of reference against which individuals, organizations, products and processes are compared and evaluated” (from Cabanis, J. (1999) Standards: The Rallying Cry of a Growing Profession )
As an industry matures, its members begin to evolve standards – a set of best practices by which to measure the quality of work done by those in the profession. These standards involve processes that ensure quality, ethical treatment and the safety of the general public. At the half-century mark, the industry of project management has reached that stage in its maturity. Sets of standards like the PMI’s PMBOK are a step toward declaring ourselves professionals in a growing and mature field.