Scoping the project management discipline


Series on increasing project management contributions to helping achieve broader ends
Article 4 of 4

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia



In the project management world, all too often the project is viewed as an end in itself. The focus is usually on delivering planned project outputs. However, this viewpoint loses sight of the bigger picture. It is virtually always the case that projects are really only part of a means to help achieve broader ends. If we focus more on the latter, opportunities can emerge to increase the contributions project managers can make towards the achievement of such ends. I believe it is important for the project management industry to understand and embrace this broader context, because it provides a platform for project managers to add more value to customers.

This series has looked at how project management can add value through three mechanisms.

  • Helping convert project outputs to actual realisation of customers’ planned business (or equivalent) outcomes;
  • Helping customers determine their business needs, plan for appropriate outcomes, and establish requirements of projects to help realise these outcomes;
  • Helping organizations determine their strategic objectives, plan for achieving them, and develop an appropriate portfolio of projects to help such achievement.

The first three articles of the series (Stretton 2016b,c,d) addressed these three bullet points. This final article is essentially an amalgamation of these articles, and scopes the project management discipline into wider contexts than are usually presented.


This article develops a series of models of the potential, and in some cases actual, scope of the project management discipline. We start with a narrow execution-only model for individual projects. We then expand this model to include the realisation of outcomes to which project outputs contribute, and project management involvement therein, which was discussed in more detail in the first article of this series.

These business (or equivalent) outcomes then form bases for developing more progressively inclusive models of how project management could, and in many cases actually does, get involved in activities which precede the execution of individual projects.

These activities involve capturing the business needs of the project’s key customers; planning to convert these needs to outcomes; and establishing the technical requirements of projects to help achieve these – as discussed in some detail in the second article of this series.

The third article then moved on to the broader context of organisational strategic planning, which was presented in three segments, namely establishing its strategic objectives; developing strategic options to achieve them, and choosing the best; and developing strategic portfolios of projects to help accomplish this.

This fourth article will discuss relationships of the latter organisational strategic group with the components of the individual project components. Finally, we add organisational outcomes realisation, and then consolidate a model illustrating the full extent of the scope of project management involvement already discussed.

But first, we distinguish between two different types of organisations.


To read entire article (click here)

Editor’s note: This series of articles on general management principles applied to project management is by Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still accepting some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal. See his author profile below.


About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD

Faculty Corps, University of Management and Technology
Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)

Sydney, Australia


Alan Stretton
is one of the pioneers of modern project management. He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA. In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects. He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France). Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992. He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996. He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management. He has published over 160 professional articles and papers. Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.