Abstract nature of Project Management

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Many debates have been concluded by defining “Management” as a scientific art. I always wonder how a painter is able to portrait a surreal landscape on canvas. An artist thinks about every stroke of brush that he wants to draw on canvas. He enjoys imagining what he wishes to draw and the force on the brush and sequence of paints & strokes while painting. He takes care to follow a definite process or sequence while painting to ensure exact re-appearance of what he had imagined.

In majority of projects, project managers are not involved in the initial sales cycle and they end up embracing what has been envisaged and promised by others. It is a challenge that every project manager has to accept. While analyzing and solving puzzle of project deliverable, timeline, budget, staffing plan, his judgment and past experience is subjected to test. I personally have enjoyed working on complex assignments.

Project management is a combination of the concrete and the abstract.

The abstract part of project management relates imagining how a project would be structured and delivered. Having imagined, it is scientific knowledge that project manager has acquired over a period of time needs to be applied in structured manner which I would consider as a science or concrete part of project management skill.

In all training forums it is emphasized that every project is unique project. The uniqueness brings in inherent risk of unknown factors which a project manager needs to be observant. While project manager need not be a visionary, his abstract foreshadowing skill helps him to envisage about series of events that would happen in future and assess approaching events or risk. Having identified risks the next step is a scientific process of risk management wherein each risk is analyzed for its impact on project success and probability of occurrence, which leads to next process of mitigation plan.

With advent of technology, a multi-cultural and multi-location team is assigned to projects. The abstract component is quite complex here. He need to deal with human behavior and communication among other things wherein one cannot take a structured approach. I have come across many team members who are self motivated and follow through with the tasks assigned. Other team members need to be micro-managed. A project manager should recognize such team members and decide strategy. He/she needs to come out with innovative ideas to get the work done and keep the team on track.

Project execution is often governed by established delivery methodology governed by policies, procedures, templates & tools. The standard being followed could be either adapted or internally developed. It s expected that a project manager and team would follow the method without any deviations, unless unanimously approved by stakeholders. During my discussions with my mentor I learned that a successful methodology should produce consistent results, either good or bad. The methodology needs to be reviewed and upgraded periodically to mitigate risks, although the probability of success will never be 100%, else it would be a certainty. To ensure that the project is successful, often, it is subjected to audits. The audits could be detailed to check every step (policing?) or just analysis of how the project is initiated, and how it is monitored. I have had many consultations with aspiring project managers without understanding intricacies of abstract project management. The Science or Concrete part of project management is easily understood, however the art of managing expectations, uncertainties and people management is learned only by observation and experience.

Let me know your thoughts about project management. How much percentage of your time is consumed in Concrete and degree to which it is abstract.

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2 thoughts on “Abstract nature of Project Management

    sanishdavis said:
    15/10/2013 at 11:37 pm

    Rightly said Nishikant! Project mgt n leadership is an art n science rolled into one role.

      Nishikant said:
      16/10/2013 at 8:13 pm

      Thanks Sanish! Any inputs on what makes a project manager successful? Science or Art?

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