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What is a project and why do it?

To understand projects and project management through a sailing boat metaphor.
A sailboat with a path across open water and past some islands lit up by the sun. On the path represented by a dotted line, dangers lurk such as heavy wind and a giant octopus.
© Luleå University of Technology

This activity is about understanding what characterizes projects as a way of working, and why we sometimes organize work as a project.

To introduce projects and project management we will use a sailing boat metaphor as shown in the image above.

A – Goal

A project has a starting point and a specified goal, like going from A to B within a specific period of time.

B – Team

To manage different activities that will lead to the (project) goal, a team of people with different kinds of skills and competences need to collaborate.

C – Reference point

In order to successfully reach the goal, the project team must all the time know where they are and what to achieve in order to get there.

D – Uncertainty

Carrying out a project always involves a level of uncertainty. It is impossible to plan for everything, and not all circumstances can be controlled. As in the case of a sailing trip, it is impossible to control the weather, where for example strong head-winds affect the time schedule, and perhaps the choice of sailing routes.

E- A plan

The project team must always be prepared to adapt and make changes due to new circumstances or challenges emerging. To handle that, a plan is needed, i.e. how to reach the goal by taking into account different constraints, requirements and risks. The project plan needs updates continuously, to act as a reference point.

© Luleå University of Technology
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Plan for Project Success: Project Planning and Management:

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