What Exactly is Your Project?

Welcome to the March 2017 PMWJ

The Growing Importance of Categorization, Context and Typology in Project Management – – and Welcome to the February 2017 Edition of the PM World Journal

David Pells

Managing Editor

Addison, Texas, USA


Welcome to the March 2017 edition of the PM World Journal (PMWJ). This 56th edition continues to reflect the international nature of this publication; 32 original articles, papers and other works by 41 different authors in 21 different countries are included this month. News articles about projects and project management around the world are also included. Since the primary mission of this journal is to support the global sharing of knowledge, please share this month’s edition with others in your network, wherever in the world they may be.

Since last August, on the recommendation of several respected advisors, I have been using this opportunity to mention new trends or important issues that I see as journal editor. This month I want to discuss an emerging set of nagging questions: if every project is truly unique (Most definitions of a project seem to include the word “unique”), how practically useful are general bodies of knowledge, standards and qualifications? How real or applicable are “best practices” in project management (PM)? Why aren’t the now acknowledged millions of people working on projects around the world flocking to PM education, certifications and organizations? Why don’t more senior executives jump on the PM band wagon when so many of their projects are of real strategic importance?

When I first entered the PM field in the 1970s, I learned about the work breakdown structure (WBS) and WBS dictionary (scope), critical path planning (schedule), resource estimating and planning (cost), and quality (this was on a nuclear power plant). Risk was addressed with contingencies and reserves; communication, leadership and soft skills were just part of the job, with managers attending some internal courses. I knew the type of project was different from those in other industries and organizations, but these were not considerations we worried about.

In the 1980s I got involved with the Project Management Institute (PMI), joining a chapter, then founding and serving as a chapter president. We brought people from various organizations and projects together to share information. I bought into a common PM body of knowledge, terminology, standards and certifications. During the 1990s I was in the forefront of PMI’s specific interest group (SIG) initiative as a SIG founder and chair. I began to recognize some differentiation for projects and project management as PMI members with different interests began to congregate and collaborate. New standards emerged for some industries, for example, construction and information technology (IT). Still, the commitment to a common set of concepts, principles and standards remained the rule.

Now in the 21st century, as the PM professional field has grown worldwide while the failure rate of projects has remained relatively constant, there seems to be an emerging realization that the “one-size-fits-all” approach may not be enough. Diversity seems to be emerging as the rule rather than the exception in the PM world. Just as there are vast numbers and types of projects around the world, there are vast numbers of unique differences. Project categories, either industry, geography or other distinctions, and project types are receiving new emphasis for describing and studying projects and programs. Context is also growing in importance.

What exactly is your project?

I now think that the word “unique” deserves more attention, and a better understanding of unique project factors may hold the secret to achieving more project success. Understanding the category, type and context of one’s project could dramatically improve the ability to plan, identify critical risks and success factors, avoid pitfalls and create value.

Below are a few comments about these three aspects of project characterization, not in depth as there’s not enough space here – others have already addressed these topics much better than I can. Also included are some comments about Situational Project Management, a topic introduced by Oliver Lehmann in his good recent book. [6]


To read entire paper, click here



About the Author


David L. Pells

Managing Editor, PMWJ
Managing Director, PMWL



David L. Pells is Managing Editor of the PM World Journal (https://www.pmworldjournal.net/) and Managing Director of the PM World Library (http://www.pmworldlibrary.net/). David is an internationally recognized leader in the field of professional project management with more than 35 years of experience on a variety of programs and projects, including engineering, construction, energy, defense, transit, technology and nuclear security, and project sizes ranging from thousands to billions of dollars. He has been an active professional leader in the United States since the 1980s, serving on the board of directors of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) twice. He was founder and chair of the Global Project Management Forum (1995-2000), an annual meeting of leaders of PM associations from around the world.

David was awarded PMI’s Person of the Year award in 1998 and Fellow Award, PMI’s highest honor, in 1999. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK; Project Management Associates (PMA – India); and Russian Project Management Association. Since 2010 he is an honorary member of the Project Management Association of Nepal. From June 2006 until March 2012, he was the managing editor of PM World Today. He occasionally provides high level advisory services for major programs, global organizations and the U.S. federal government. David has a BA in Business Administration from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in business from Idaho State University in the USA. He has published widely, spoken at conferences and events worldwide, and can be contacted at [email protected]

To see other works by David Pells, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/david-l-pells/