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1. What is Project Management?
Project management is a methodical approach to planning and guiding project processes from start to finish. According to the Project Management Institute, project processes are guided through five stages: initiation, planning, executing, controlling, and closing. Project management can be applied to almost any type of project, from software development to the creation of a water and sanitation system. A project is a defined set of activities--having specific start and completion dates--undertaken to bring about beneficial change.
The Free Management Library defines Project Management as "a carefully planned and organized effort to accomplish a specific (and usually) one-time effort, for example, construct a building or implement a new computer system. Project management includes developing a project plan, which includes defining project goals and objectives, specifying tasks or how goals will be achieved, what resources are need, and associating budgets and timelines for completion. It also includes implementing the project plan, along with careful controls to stay on the 'critical path', that is, to ensure the plan is being managed according to plan."
A program is a large scale scheme made up of a variety of projects. There is a lot of overlap between project management and program management, and an aid/development worker is wise to ask for clarification when receiving either assignment.
Documentation of project management is necessary not only for the project team, but also for current and potential donors, governments, the media, and even non-government organizations (who may want to act as "watch dogs" regarding a project's appropriateness and effectiveness). Documentation is also helpful for the handing over of projects from departing aid workers to those newly-arrived, or to those local people who will be taking over a project.
2. Common Approaches
It is impossible to list all of the various approaches to project management. Just a few of the most popular are highlighted below:
Most aid and development workers will have heard of the S.M.A.R.T. approach: Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Time-terminated. Look up this term online to find out more about this approach, which is widely-used in aid and development efforts.
The creation of a Logical Framework (Logframe) is something veteran aid workers are quite familiar with. See these resources for more information:
Most will also be quite familiar with the SWOT Analysis, a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project. Again, any search online will provide you with a myriad of examples and explanations of the SWOT approach. Also see this example of a SWOT worksheet (in PDF).
Gantt charts are a list of activities against time in the format of a bar chart. A good Gantt chart will also show critical points to the success of the project, such as points at which critical decisions have to be made (approving the project, hiring the consultant, procurement processes, etc) and how the activities are reliant on one another (the concrete has to be purchased and delivered before the toilets can be built, but holes can be dug ahead of time). Gantt charts are very useful in managing projects because they assist the manager to see the progress of the project, note any delays and determine the impact of delays or other problems on the achievement of the project objectives.
3. Project Cycle Management
Most development agencies use the concept of project cycle management to define the stages of managing a project. A common pictorial representation is from UNEP; this picture is a simplistic version of how one goes about designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating a project. It is also useful because it clearly shows the cyclical nature of development – that once a project ends and is evaluated, the learning should be taken forward to help define another project. Each of the stages in the chart have activities that are embedded within them. For example, the project identification stage usually includes stakeholder analyses, problem trees, needs assessments and other activities to help ensure that the project that is designed is founded on the best possible knowledge and information.
See this useful outline
Execution : the discipline of getting things done by Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan; with Charles Burck. Random House. New York. 2002.
Successful Project Management by Trevor L. Young. Kogan Page Limited. London. 2004.
Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation by Dr. Carter McNamera.
Managing Humanitarian Relief: An Operational Guide for NGOs by AWN contributing writer Dr. Eric James
Tags: Project Management