Project Management is an Art Form NOT a Science

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Project Management: Art to the Rescue!

"Is project management more of a science or more of an art form?"


Today’s business executives are asking their managers and employees “to do more… with less”. Fewer Project Managers are leading more projects with poor results, the latest Standish Group – Chaos Report shows that only 28% of IT projects succeed. Many believe that the key to Project success in not applying technical management principles, but rather, more artful soft skills such as communication and creativity. (Belzer, 2004).

This case study will present and discuss why the application of soft skills will help today’s stressed-out Project Managers implement successful projects. Not only must projects be deployed on time and within budget, they must ultimately bring value to the stakeholder. Often times relating this information to the project sponsor requires creativity rather than a montage of colorful Gantt charts and graphs.

The truly gifted Project Managers are those that can apply the systematic hard skills in an artful manner by using soft skills. To that end, some systematic or science related management skills will be discussed, along with the soft skills and how they are used together to successfully manage projects.

Scientific Approach

Systematic or “hard” skills such as Gantt Charting or diagramming are just some of the tools Project Managers use to track project activities. While they are important to project success they are not the end all. Successful Project Leaders know the winning formula for combining hard skills with soft skills. A thorough understanding of the technical system to be deployed allows project leaders to break the project down into many smaller tasks. Assign...

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...also qualities of successful managers. Good leaders apply artistic traits to scientific tools in order to effectively manage complex projects.


Kate Belzer (2004) Project Management: Still More Art than Science

Andrew D. Brown, Matthew R. Jones (1998) Doomed to failure: narratives of inevitability and conspiracy in a failed IS project. Organization Studies, Winter.

Michael Greer (1999) 14 Key Principles for PM Success. Chapter 6: Planning and Managing Human Performance Technology Projects, "Handbook of Human Performance Technology, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass

Craig Schiff (January, 2004) Maximize Business Performance: Getting Started: The BPM Project Life Cycle

Paul Worthington (2001) Case Study – Developing Project Management Skills in Managing Death March Projects. Working paper, School of Business, Curtin University, Perth, AU

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