May 14th, 2003
Productivity Tips Newsletter
This issue offers a fresh perspective into the different 'worlds' of effective project management.
by Ted Gulas
Two Worlds of Work:
The first world is the one most of us are familiar with: the Operation World. This encompasses our day-to-day responsibilities regardless of our job description. A salesperson sells, a supervisor supervises, a production worker produces, etc. The tasks that make up this world of work are, for the most part, repetitive and quite familiar. As a result, these tasks are by and large 'simple' in nature.
The second world is a relative newcomer for most knowledge workers: the Project World. Project work is very different from Operations work. The tasks are not familiar to most of us, nor are they repetitive. In fact, these tasks tend to be very 'complex' by comparison to our operational responsibilities. There is also one key characteristic that fundamentally differentiates the Operation World from the Project World: that key ingredient hinges on the issue of dependency.
Operational work tends to be very independent. If we were to look at our daily activity list, most of the items tend to stand by themselves. For example, say that one of the many telephone calls on that list did not get accomplished during the day. The basic result is that the rest of the list goes on regardless. Project work is very dependent in nature. Each of the tasks has predecessors and successors (preceding and succeeding tasks). Some tasks are performed sequentially and some can be performed in parallel with other tasks. However, should one of those tasks slip, or be missed outright, the impact is felt throughout many, and sometimes all, of the downstream tasks. Think of this as the domino effect.
This is the critical difference from Operational work. That one missed telephone call may seem insignificant at the moment yet can often be catastrophic to the success of the overall project. Project work is always more complex. The myriad of tasks must be logically thought out in terms of their respective dependencies. Limited resources must be allocated to these tasks. All of this compounds the difficult task of creating a schedule to conduct the work effectively.
All too often novice or even experienced project workers fail to recognize this fundamental difference and attempt to manage a project from an Operations perspective. In our next issue we will begin to investigate in more detail the differences between these Two Worlds of Work.
To read more about why the non-technical approach to Project Management (as taught by Priority Management) is more valuable to the business world, read this review by Kenneth Green:
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