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What does project management mean to me?

What does project management mean to meWhenever you think of any of the grand achievements from human history they all required an understanding and application of project management techniques.

Think of the Egyptian pyramids, Rome’s Colosseum, India’s Taj Mahal and New York’s Empire State Building. All of these are perfect examples of what project management means – which is to take an idea which only exists in someone’s imagination and to construct something which reflects in a concrete form those thoughts in the real world. 

Leaving aside the fact that many of these ancient wonders were vain attempts to leave everlasting memories of often cruel leaders, pharaohs or kings, they also epitomised something which sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. That is the ability of humans to form abstract ideas and to be able to communicate such ideas to others. Without this ability, humans would never have been able to develop the tools needed to gain mastery over the natural world.  

A world without project managers? 

So, would human advancement have occurred without project management? No, because every new tool which was invented, every improvement in human society which occurred, and every change in our daily life was a deliverable of one project or another.  

Does that mean that earlier humans had an understanding of project management? Possibly. Of course they didn’t have qualifications in PRINCE2® or PMP® certification which we have, but they may have had methods which were verbally handed down from one generation to another.  

With the advancement of the written word, it’s possible that best practices might have been communicated this way as well. Was there a “Roman patrician’s guide to managing amphitheatre projects”? I don’t know, but what I am certain of, is that we wouldn’t have been able to put a man on the moon, eradicate smallpox or rebuild the twin towers were it not for the project management achievements of the past. 

So, is project management also advancing, just as technology has advanced since we learned how to fashion a flint stone? Yes it is. The combined experiences of thousands of project managers, managing tens of thousands of projects over many years forms the project management best practices of today. 

Available for download on your Kindle, or available to be learned on a workshop, these modern project management methods are an attempt to provide project managers with workable sets of tools and techniques. These can help us turn our client’s ideas into deliverables which they can then use in their own beneficial way.  

Human communication 

What modern project management methods cannot do however, is provide us with the most important and fundamental skill of all – that of communication. Of all the project management skills, this is the one which is the hardest of all. It is this skill however, which if humans had failed to learn would mean that as a species we’d still be no different from the rest of the animal world. 

So, learn and read about project management and get the latest qualification by all means. But, the one skill which will elevate you and which will enable you to deliver the most fantastic deliverables from your projects is the ability to communicate with your fellow human beings.  

All the work performed on projects is done by people. They need to know what’s expected of them, they need to be motivated to work for the common aims, and they need to be able to visualize complex things before they have been created. They need to be able to cooperate together, to resolve differences and to put aside petty wants. It’s the project manager who needs to facilitate such things.  

Challenges today 

In a world dominated by wonderful human and technological achievements – the most amazing modern cities, technology and infrastructure for example, the world faces a myriad of challenges.  

Global warming threatens to destroy many of the achievements of the past. Rising sea levels, if left unchecked, will flood many of the world’s great cities. Droughts will cause hunger leading to millions of refugees. Wars between nations will increase as resources get scarcer.  

Project managers have a role to play in helping prevent this catastrophe by using that most precious project management skill of all – communication. 

So project managers, I call on you to help persuade your fellow human beings and politicians of the impending catastrophe so that they do something to prevent it.  

The greatest human achievements of all came about due to project management. The greatest human achievement in the future will be to stop global warming destroying them.  

PRINCE2® is a registered trademark of AXELOS. PMP® is a registered mark of Project Management Institute, Inc. 

The #pmFlashBlog initiative

PM flash blogThis post is published as part of a first ever project management related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Seventy four (98!) bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now (literally NOW) available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is found here so please go and check them out! 

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