Are projects and project management unique?

We often hear people talking about projects being unique, especially that guides like the PMBOK Guide include the term “Unique” in the definition of projects. All is well on this point.

However, the challenge is that many, who do not understand this definition well, use the definition as an anti-standardization argument.

Read on

What does this term refer to and what is unique?

What is unique are the various conditions and environmental factors related to the project. Each organization might handle projects differently. Also, the technical / scope aspects of projects are different = has unique features.

However, when we discuss the management of these projects, is the process for managing projects unique? In other words, do we really need every project manager and project management team to tailor the method for their projects under the guise that “projects are unique”?

Yes, projects are unique, but managing similar types of projects is NOT UNIQUE. I can understand that managing a project (say capital project or technology) between company X and company Y could be different in term of governance and control. However, let us ask this:

Do you really think that managing similar types projects in the same organization is unique?

Let us expand on this question: let us take a government, like a city or a state or a small country government, do the same type of projects need to be managed differently from one ministry – department – or authority to another? If yes, WHY?

Why would an HR project in the ministry of education be different from the ministry of power and energy? Why would building a facility in the ministry of health be different from building a similar facility in the ministry of the interior?

Let us now consider a large conglomerate with numerous subsidiaries; does the management of a marketing project varies from one division to another or subsidiary to another?

Organizations, governments, companies, NGO, not-for-profit; wake up and smell success: projects are unique but the project management process (for similar types of projects) does NOT have to be unique.

By expecting the PM’s and PMT to tailor methods for every project, you are re-inventing the wheel, wasting resources, and risking project success.

What do you think? Share your opinion, please.