Operations versus projects

I was having a debate with a friend of mine who is a project manager at a manufacturing plant.

I began the debate by declaring that his title is inappropriate and that he isn’t a project manager based on what he does every day.

He countered that had a project team and was required to submit weekly project status updates to his management team.

I asked what his status updates contained and his reply was that they highlight the output of the team and any issues the team encountered. Sounds like a project update to me, but when I pried deeper he revealed that the output was simply a count of the products the line produced that week.

I then calmly explained to him that projects are unique and designed to bring about change. They are not about:

  • Maintaining the status quo is not a project
  • Repeating the same thing over and over again is not a project

Projects are endeavors that by their nature are not repeatable, while you want your operational conduct to be very repeatable. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with conducting operations, but too often people in the world confuse operations and projects.

Let me know if you have ever ran across management who confuses the two a well.

2 Replies to “Operations versus projects”

  1. So is there a difference in the type of project? I run a 3 year application and outsourcing project at a major Pharma. But we also manage minor and major implementation projects. Your thoughts?

  2. I love this topic. I interviewed a PM candidate recently who told me about her current “project”. She updates a database with financial information and presents weekly reports to upper management. I asked when the project started and what is the final goal. She told me she took it over from someone else and there is no defined completion.

    That’s not a project!

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