Project management is defined by the Project Management Institute as the "application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations from a project".
Project management certification is desirable for those wishing to become project managers.
The use of project management skills to complete projects is discussed.
Also discussed is how to obtain certification. This certification is of benefit (though not absolutely necessary) for those wishing to make a profession out of the project management field
The author is a professional engineer but is not a certified project manager. This is also the case for many project managers with whom the author has worked.
However, for someone wanting to enter the field as a professional, certification should be their goal and would give the holder of such certification a leg up in the profession. It is not an easy certification to obtain! A major requirement is the need to pass a difficult exam. An engineering education is not required for certification although most of the project managers with whom I worked were graduate engineers.
Several excellent organizations offer certification . One of the best known of the organizations is the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Those interested in obtaining certification will have to learn the basics including the vocabulary of project managers, e.g., tasks, activity, event, node, work breakdown structure, etc. Excellent education and training is available in the form of courses and workshops,
A project is defined as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. During World War 2, the Manhattan Project to produce an atomic bomb, was a project. Who had heard of an atomic bomb before?
The Apollo program was also a project. It was unique in that no one had been to the moon before. and it was temporary in that no one goes there anymore
An effort to produce additional Jeep Cherokees of the same design is not a "project" as defined by the professional institutes. Such an effort might be temporary but the Jeep Cherokee is not a unique project.
However, an endeavor to redesign the Jeep Cherokee to get better gas mileage could be considered a project because it would mean a unique product has been produced.
Managing the first two projects discussed above - atomic bomb development and the Apollo Program - took an enormous effort and many project managers. Without such an effort, the atomic bomb development might have been delayed for years and we might still be trying to get to the moon.
Looking at the other side of the coin, had Germany had the foresight and the project management skills, they might have gotten the atomic bomb first. Think Hitler would have hesitated using it?
I also believe Russia - if their project management skills had been adequate - might have beat us to the moon. Certainly, they were technically ahead of us in rocket development during the early "Sputnik" years.
I have been fortunate to work on several enormous government projects that required major project management efforts.
Apollo Space Program. I can remember when Sputnik first flew and the outcry was heard that we would never catch the Russians.
President Kennedy didn't waste much time when he got elected in 1960 to begin one of the largest and most successful projects in history: to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's. Project management was a key to the success of that effort and every unit working on that project practiced project management techniques. Every element of that project was shown on flow diagrams and other management tools. If completion of a project element slowed and it looked like the slowing might delay the moon landing, immediate pressure was put to get the element back on line.
The project management worked! Completion of the Apollo Programj occurred. We put the man on the moon! Unfortunately, we then dropped the program and, over the past couple of decades, spent too much time patting ourselves on the back over our success. Now, we may have to redo the project as the first step to putting a man on Mars in 30 or so years!
Minuteman Missile Project. I also spent some time in the 60's on the Minuteman missile project. The idea was to develop a land-based missile and to produce and install so many of the missiles that Russia would never dare attack us. Again, project management was the key to success in completing the project, and that concept worked as we quickly put enough missiles in the ground to destroy Russia many times over.
Another missile program at the time also utilized similar techniques. That program was the Polaris missile submarine program. The program was a success.
Louisiana Coastal Restoration. I worked a number of years with the state of Louisiana as a project manager involved in the construction of projects intended to stem the ongoing loss of wetlands in Louisiana. Many projects were completed during my time there.
Although we successfully used project management techniques, wetlands loss continued at an unabated, high rate ( 25 square miles per year). You might say the operation was a success but the patient died. The wetlands loss contributed to the devastation visited on New Orleans during the great flood associated with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (a healthy marsh reduces the effect of storm surges!)
In hindsight, it might have been better to have had the coastal restoration effort combined with hurricane levee construction, evaluation & shutdown of unnecessary oilfield canals in the marsh, etc. A very large project management effort could have been used to oversee the combined effort.
A combined coastal restoration - hurricane protection system would have provided New Orleans with more protection and, at the same time, accomplished the goals of coastal restoration. I believe such a combined program is now being implemented.
I retired 10 years ago but remain very interested in the coastal restoration program. Being a resident of New Orleans, I am very interested the hurricane protection system also.
Katrina & Rebuilding New Orleans. I live in the greater New Orleans area and witnessed what a powerful hurricane like Katrina can do to a vulnerable city like New Orleans. If ever there was a need for a large rebuilding effort to be dedicated, project management techniques applied, and project completion accomplished, rebuilding the city of New Orleans was that project. The effort is still underway.
Project management is a key to completion of projects and obtaining certification in the field can be an important step for someone wanting to work as a Project Manager.
Last Updated: 03/26/17
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