Perhaps using the word “Project” makes something sounds too formal and potentially scary, it might be more convenient to call what you do a “Job”. Perhaps thinking of something as a “Project” brings on visions of lots of form-filling, bureaucracy and red tape…

There are so many businesses out there providing products or services that are either bespoke for a particular situation or entirely unique, yet they wouldn’t consider that they ‘do projects’.

A couple of examples of companies I worked with recently, that you may not consider as ‘doing projects’ were a chocolate factory and a joinery. Don’t they just churn out thousands of identical chocolate bars a day in the first case and furniture in the case of the second ? Let’s take a look at each one in the context of what they do and the definition of what actually is a project.

One definition of a project is: “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.”

JOINERY – Their products are a mix of mass-produced items – which wouldn’t appear to fit the definition of a project – or bespoke products, with the latter fitting the definition better. In each case, a requirement is sent in by a customer, probably with a well-defined specification. From this the joinery company will make an assessment of the materials and labour required and then agree a price for the job, and even in some cases a specified delivery date. Actually this addresses all 3 of the ‘levers’ associated with a project: the scope (specification), time (delivery date), and resources (agreed price). Even in the case of the mass produced outputs, there will be an initial specification, work to set up the production line (or program a CNC machine, for example), and agreed price, etc. So the joinery certainly does engage in projects, albeit usually on a fairly quick turnaround – hence perhaps the reason these are more often thought of as ‘jobs’.

CHOCOLATE FACTORY – In the case of existing production lines churning out thousands of identical products a day, then this is definitely ‘business as usual’. However, many products are seasonal and of limited shelf life, with some products even being limited edition, and it wouldn’t make much sense for production lines to stand idle until the beginning of the next season. So in fact production lines are often completely re-configured. These exercises require a great deal of planning, engineering, testing, without even considering the Food Safety and Health & Safety aspects to consider. Indeed each production line re-configuration follow a sequence of tasks, have a defined duration, unique output, etc and therefore easily fall into the definition of a project.

So, unless an enterprise is genuinely running a continual process (an example being super-markets, etc), it is quite likely that an enterprise is engaging in project work, and can therefore benefit from adopting some Project Management disciplines. The key to this of course, is to ensure that these disciplines are tailored to suit the size and nature of the business, thus adding value rather than creating work for its own sake.

In my next post, I’ll take a look at Project Controls and how they add value.