Project Management Refresher Workshop

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Characteristics of a Project

1. Projects grow out of problems or opportunities.  A Project is born when someone reacts to the level of frustration surrounding a problem or sees an opportunity to move into a new venture.  When a decision is made to do something about the problem or opportunity, a project is initiated, and typically, someone is given the responsibility for carrying in out.  (Haynes: 1989:16)


2. In the workplace projects can be initiated by management, clients or staff members.


3.  The decision from management to initiate a project has three main divisions, namely:  forecasting, policy and objectives (Burman: 1979:6).


a.  Forecasting.  Forecasting is essentially an attempt to look into the future.  In order to do this, the major elements are those of carrying out investigations and interpreting the facts.  This requires analytical thought.  There is a need to question traditions and assumptions, and to marshal facts in an orderly fashion from which conclusions can be drawn.


b.  Objectives.  Forecasts must be transformed into objectives at every level of the organisation.  Only in this way can a project proceed in an orderly manner.  Managers must set the main objectives which will provide guidance at all levels.  Objectives refer to a gaol, target, or quota to be achieved by a certain time.  (Kerzner: 1992:587).


c. Policy.  Policy statements provide a standing answer or questions and are the key to delegation.  Work will proceed much more smoothly and rapidly if anticipated problems are solved in advance, especially if they are of a repetitive nature.


4.  Each and every one of us, is involved in some sort of operation each day and in everything we do, irrespective of the field-of application.  Some operations are large, and extend over a long period of time and some extend over a shorter period of time.  There are also those that are small by comparison.  But no matter how long or short the projects are, there are, of course, common denominators in all of these operations which make them “projects”.  The following characteristics of projects apply:


a. A project is finite.  Specifically, it has a definite end-point at which it can be said to be complete, and all its goals have been met.


b. A project is complex.  To be worthy of project status, the operation must be a fairly involved mix of series and parallel activities and must have a significant interplay of human skills, as well as resources, materials and facilities.


c. A project is homogeneous.  The individual activities of the project can definitely be identified as belonging to it, and there are relatively few activities which depend upon the surroundings to a greater extent than on the project itself.


d. A project is non-repetitive.  It is generally viewed as being a one-time effort and thus, in many ways, it is (Burnman: 1979:3).

Indicate which of the following characteristics are a common denominator in all projects. Select one option.

  • A project has a definite end point at which it can be called completed.
  • A project must be a fairly simple mix of activities.
  • Individual activities of a project can be identified as belonging to various other projects.
  • A project is a repetitive exercise.