Lecture 2. What is a project?
Any cultural initiative starts with a project. Let us talk about the difference between a project and a process, and what role a project manager plays in this.

Have you ever thought about how many projects there are in your life? Writing a paper at school, remodelling your apartment, buying a car, search for a new job – any of these could be described as a project.

To understand what is a project, you have to draw a dividing line between a project and a process. The process is a repetitive assignment or operation that result in what you want to achieve. As an example of a process one can take: selling tickets, team management, printing of banners, morning runs. The main characteristic feature of a process is its repetitive nature. What is more, its result is positively predictable.

At the same time, a project constitutes an aggregate of actions limited in time and directed at problem solving or achieving a set goal.

The main characteristic features of a project are:

  • Time limits set to achieving a set goal with a starting point and a finishing one.

  • There is a need in resources to implement it, and they are limited.

  • A project is a temporary system, it does not have repetitions after its completion (but there is a possibility of starting a new project).

  • Project is always about managing different dimensions.

  • Project result is unpredictable and is always unique.

It is also important to note that a project, unlike a process, is always characterised by a high level of uncertainty, despite the fact that it consists of the processes well known in advance.

As an example of a project, one can take: the creation of a service to sell tickets, forming a project team, developing and designing banners for a concert, marathon.

The project approach logic is well described by the so-called Project Triangle or a Project Management Triangle:

It has three main sides:

  • Time. That is always limited in a project.

  • Project scope. I.e. project goals and activities, meaning its content.

  • Cost. Here we have all the project resources, including human resources as well, for they all have its monetary equivalent.

There is also the fourth, invisible side – the project quality. It's not always talked about in projects, and not always there in the description of project requirements. Nevertheless, as a result we all evaluate projects, including for their quality.

The triangle clearly shows that if we change even one side, it will affect at least one more of them. For instance, if you shorten the project time side (we need to finish it one month earlier), it could mean that we are also decreasing the project content, i.e. decreasing the number of project activities. Alternatively, if we otherwise want to increase the volume of activities, we have to similarly either increase the budget or add more time or sacrifice the quality.

Quite exemplary subconscious use of this triangle for us would be with the apartment renovations. We cannot possibly do it in a quick, cheap and high-quality way. If we want to increase our quality, we will have to increase the budget etc.

the triangle is a masterful way to describe the project limitations that are always present. Managing these limitations to achieve results is the ultimate goal of a project manager.

It is not always that a project manager can have a big team. Quite often, a project manager in the cultural sector and creative industries is a multi-functional role operating within a wide scope of varied competences. In any case, the main functions of a project manager are interconnected with all the processes happening within the project, namely:

1. Communication management – in large part it has to do with internal communications, between the team members, internal and external counterparts. Different types and forms of reporting also fall into this category.

2. Team management – quite often is about talent management, working with creative people and artists. Here we have everything starting from the search for team members to organising its work, mentoring and motivation.

3. Managing stakeholders – is about working with everybody who is in this or that way interested (or not interested) in your project and can influence it: starting from partners and sponsors, to media and authorities.

4. Project content management – filling the project with content, introduction of necessary amendments and adjusting project goals.

5. Time management – meeting deadlines, tracking the general project timeline.

6. Cost management – is about everything connected with the project financial resources.

7. Quality management – from setting quality criteria to constant monitoring and performance control against meeting expected results in reality.

8. Risk management – perhaps is one of the key functions. Risk analysis, development an implementation of risk management strategy.

9. General monitoring and project implementation tracking, and integration of all its components and processes to achieve the project goals.

Thus, leadership qualities, self-confidence and confidence in your actions, analytical abilities, self-organisation and the willingness to move forward – these are the key characteristics of a project manager. Moreover, he/she should have knowledge of general management and project activities, understand specifics of creative industries, speak foreign languages, know how to work with people and negotiate. And finally there should also be the ability of seeing the whole picture and analyse it.

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