Managing a Project or Executing a Process?

Don’t mistake your ability to get your work done with the ability to manage a project.

Managing a project is about organizing resources to achieve a goal. As the PMI definition of a project indicates, projects produce a unique product, service or result. A process is a repeatable piece of work that has an input, output, and a transformation that occurs. Many times we start to mistake complex procedures for a project. If you are responsible for creating the yearbook, you might feel that this is a new project every year. You are producing what seems to be a unique result, but it might just be a new output from a process.

How do you know if it is a process or a project?

Your piece of work is a process if:

  1. You can create a checklist for the work based on the knowledge of what has worked in the past.
  2. The framework is the same, but the content or attributes are different. (Eg. Different colours, different materials, different qualities.)
  3. You could teach someone else to do the work because you have already been through it once.

We often label something a project because doing a project seems more heroic that executing a process. In truth, executing a process consistently is a valuable skill. If you can deliver the same quality of yearbook for many years in a row, you will be considered a success. 

A process, even a very complex and infrequent one, is repeatable work that you can improve on. Executing a process requires knowledge of the inputs, transformation, and output. Delivering results from a process means being able to repeat what you did last time, just as well, or better. 

Executing a process is not managing a project. 

  • Tomorrow we’ll talk about why project management isn’t process execution. 
  • The following day we’ll talk about how project management is simply made up of many repeatable processes for you to execute.