Chapter 1. What Is a Project?

Things are not always what they seem.

Phaedrus, Roman writer and fabulist

Defining a Project

To put projects into perspective, you need a definition — a common starting point. All too often people call any work they have to do a "project." Projects actually have a very specific definition. If a set of tasks or work to be done does not meet the strict definition, then it cannot be called a project. To use the project management techniques presented in this book, you must first have a project.

A project is a sequence of unique, complex, and connected activities having one goal or purpose and that must be completed by a specific time, within budget, and according to specification.

This definition tells you quite a bit about a project. To appreciate just what constitutes a project take a look at each part of the definition.

Sequence of Activities

A project comprises a number of activities that must be completed in some specified order, or sequence. An activity is a defined chunk of work.


I expand on this informal definition of an activity later in Chapter 4.

The sequence of the activities is based on technical requirements, not on management prerogatives. To determine the sequence, it is helpful to think in terms of inputs and outputs.

  • What is needed as input in order to begin working on this activity?

  • What activities produce those as output?

The output of one activity or set of activities becomes the input to another activity or set of activities.

Specifying sequence ...

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