Chapter 1. What Is a Project?

Things are not always what they seem.

Phaedrus, Roman writer and fabulist


After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Define a project

  • List a project's characteristics

  • Distinguish a project from a program, activity, and task

  • Understand the five parameters that constrain a project

  • Know the importance of defining and using a project classification rule

  • Understand the issues around scope creep, hope creep, effort creep, and feature creep

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.

Defining a Project

A project is a sequence of unique, complex, and connected activities that have 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.


Chapter 4 expands on this informal definition of an activity.

The sequence of the activities ...

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