Introduction to Mastering Project Management Strategy and Processes: Proven Methods to Meet Organizational Goals
Throughout time, man has understood the basic concept of efficiency as the amount of work required to generate a desired benefit from the work. This concept can take us back to the time when man had to invest a given amount of work in preparing and maintaining a field of crops versus the benefit of the crops that were harvested. Because the field of crops would typically yield the same amount of harvest each year, man devised ways to prepare, maintain, and harvest the crops faster each year, improving his efficiency in the work required to produce the harvest. We use the same philosophy in organizations today, called process development and process improvement.
Successful organizations improve their efficiency, generally measured in bottom-line profits, through the use of process development and process improvement. Processes are typically a selection of activities grouped with a specific objective, making it easier to manage and control completion of the process objective. The critical element found in most effective processes is not only in the grouping of specific activities, but more in the organization of activities. Organizations might be very good at developing work activities to accomplish organizational objectives and may even group activities in the form of departments or divisions within an organization. When organizations take the added step of forming a process using grouped work activities, these activities can be organized in logical and sequential order such that they can be quantified as to their importance, prioritization, cost structure, and estimated time duration requirements and such that focus on organizing activities makes the process efficient. As we will see in this book, processes can be used strategically as well as tactically to accomplish objectives at several levels within the organization.
How Projects Are Used to Accomplish Objectives
As organizations develop processes to accomplish objectives, these processes can be the organization of activities carried out on a daily basis or can be activities carried out to accomplish a one-time and unique objective that we call a project. Organizations that are split up into departments, such as accounting, human resources, engineering, manufacturing and process engineering, warehouse, and shipping and receiving, have processes that document specific activities that are carried out on a daily basis. These activities typically are not unique, but are what is required of that department on an ongoing basis.
When a department has to engage in a process development exercise, process improvement, or a documentation development exercise, these are unique and not typical of day-to-day operations, and the activities required can be grouped into a project. Some organizations that have unique output deliverables as their day-to-day operations, such as construction companies producing unique building structures, can actually organize work activities into projects for these primary organizational objectives. Grouping activities into projects can be done at several levels within the organization to accomplish higher, more strategic-level objectives in which executives are trying to accomplish major objectives, as well as lower-level or tactical objectives.