Projects v business-as-usual – OPEN

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Topic 1.3: Projects v business-as-usual

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What are the key differences between projects and business as usual?
  • Uncertain performance

    We have already established that the temporary and unique nature of projects distinguishes them from the cyclic nature of business as usual – or operations – management.


    It is this very uniqueness that makes projects much more uncertain in their performance.


    Business as usual, by contrast, is grounded in precedent, in that what we do today is pretty much what we did yesterday and the day before that.

  • Significant planning

    For this reason, projects demand significant planning beyond the routine planning that goes into an operational effort.


    Indeed, two-thirds of this course is devoted to planning, or more properly, all the things you need to do before you pick up that hammer.


    Admittedly, very few project plans are ever perfectly executed. However, it is generally agreed that the better the plan, the better the project.


    We will talk in the next couple of Modules about just how much is enough.

  • Up-front financing

    Another big difference between projects and business as usual is the way they are financed.


    For an organisation, operations are generally self-sufficient, in that they pay for themselves with the revenue they generate.


    Projects, on the other hand, often do not produce a cent of income until they are finished – everything is an expense until that point.


    Even projects with a cash flow, such as those delivered under contract, demand strict management of their finances and reserves.

  • New and complex relationships

    Project teams and stakeholders are often brought together for the first time in the delivery of a project.


    Their working and reporting relationships can be unfamiliar, as the simple, well-understood hierarchies of day-to-day work are suddenly disrupted and made complex.

  • Disruptive change

    In fact, ‘disrupt’ is exactly what projects do.


    In creating new future states, they disrupt the orthodoxy – an orthodoxy that is used to (and probably prefers) realising change through the gentler, organic process of continual improvement.

Projects are how we innovate.

Innovation is a bit of a buzz word in management these days.

We now recognise that people and enterprises who innovate – in other words, those who successfully identify and deliver change – are the ones who ultimately prosper.

So, as the main way we deliver change, projects are at the cutting edge of individual, organisational and social development.

Another successful project

Not that this is anything new – the Great Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China are examples of successful projects whose outcomes have more than stood the test of time.

It is only now, though, that we are starting to treat project management as a distinct management science.

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