Why do we need Project Management?

This is more of a philosophical question. And it is important for everyone to understand this question and be able to answer it – by everyone, I mean everyone who works on a project, or is impacted by a project. But this question cannot be answered in its entirety without answering the broader question – “Why do we need management?” and also understanding – “What exactly is management?”

So, if you have not already done so, please check out my thoughts on the following two posts:

  • What is management?
  • Why do we need management?

No, the posts do not take you through a course on management or a micro-MBA program. Instead they provide a very simplified and philosophical view on the subject.

Now, that you’ve reviewed the posts (and hopefully you agree with my view), you realize that, if we need to get to a specific future/destination, we need to manage our progress in the right direction to get us to that destination. Nothing is different in regards to a project. If a project needs to deliver a specific product (or service, or change) by a specific date, within a specific budget, we need to manage it through to that destination. And Project Management is what provides us the means to manage the project. And that is exactly why we need Project Management!

That, should have been the conclusion to this topic. But it is not. And that is because, the view of what Project Management is in today’s world is a very narrow view. Let me explain. Project management, as I defined it above, is to manage the project to a specific destination. The definition does not include anything on “how?”. But “how” matters; and this is why – Project management, in essence, could be done (and is traditionally done) in a very centralized way: You have one Project Manager who pulls all the strings to keep the project running in a specific direction, to get it to the desired destination. The rest of the team is essentially controlled and directed by the Project Manager. That is our traditional Project Management practice. However, it is also possible to manage a Project collectively, without any centralized control. Actually, Project Management types could span a whole spectrum with one end having a complete centralized control to the other end having a very decentralized Management. Agile practices definitely take a stab at decentralizing some of those Project Management practices. However, I believe it should be possible for us to go even further to the right (other end of decentralization). Now getting back to the point – do not take into account the type of Project Management (centralized or decentralized) while answering the question – Why do we need Project Management? We need it because we need to get our project to a specific destination (a product/service/change done within a specific date and within a specific budget). How we do it is going to be based on the specific context of the project – a topic for another day.

Hope I could invoke some interesting thoughts by sharing mine. Cheers!

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