What is Project Management, Really?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

So, you’re a new project manager—congratulations! What is it exactly that you do? I mean, what is a project manager? If you bump into an old friend you haven’t seen for a while, how are you going to describe your role?

I’m not being facetious here. It’s a very real question that a lot of PMs can’t answer very effectively. You see, the focus of PM training is on the mechanics of the skills you need, not an overview of project management and the role of the PM. That’s just assumed to be understood, but it really isn’t. It means different things to different organizations—and to different PMs in those organizations.

I think that’s a problem. So for someone starting out in their PM career, I want to make sure there is clarity.

The purpose of the role
Let’s start with something that should be simple—the purpose of project management. I genuinely don’t believe it’s to deliver the project on time, on scope and within budget. There are a few reasons for that, not least of which is the fact that those three constraints don’t define whether a project is successful. Projects succeed when they achieve the business outcomes that they were approved for in the first place, but I don’t think it’s the PM’s job to deliver that either.

As far as I am concerned, the purpose of …

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"It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."

- Mark Twain