The Blurring Line between Operations and Project Management


How many of you are in the “operations” side of your organization?  The Operations site provides information for managers and interested parties about the profession of Operations Management. Therefore, I was delighted when asked to participate in an interview with them on October 1, 2010 talking about the similarities and differences between project management and operations management.

We began with a discussion of my experiences as a project manager dealing with operations managers across several organizations. Clearly, the key difference between the two roles in a company is the time frame of tasks. Projects have defined beginnings and endings, whereas operations such as call centers and manufacturing are continuous processes. The successful outcome of many projects relies on quality services from operations including safety, training, facilities and business processes. Both areas – projects and operations – must be professionally managed to ensure effective organizational performance.

I find it interesting to note that in many companies today, traditional operations units are also projectizing (my new word!) some of their work. They are using a project model to field test new processes or set up a new location. As the operations personnel conceive and execute projects, I think they can benefit from some of the formalization and lessons learned in professional project management. Equally, I believe that project managers can learn valuable lessons from developing a better understanding of the challenges of operations.

Finding good people to mature into project and operations managers involves screening candidates for traits such as quality mindedness and continuous desire to learn and improve as discussed in my whitepaper Staffing Projects for Success: Back to The Basics (Registration with Cognitive Technologies required to download paper.) Here’s a link to the entire interview with Operations Manager.

Please share your experience working between the worlds of project management and operations management.

3 Responses to “The Blurring Line between Operations and Project Management”

  1. Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin Says:

    great interview. for years I have been thinking that, as projects become more and more a way of doing business, they will become more integrated with (and sometimes indistinguishable from) operations. This year, one of the runners-up of our PMO of the Year award reports to the COO – a telling sign that this merger is already taking place.

  2. Operations Manager of Back Office Job Description Says:

    The operation-manager site is really a great one..thanks for sharing..helped me a lot!

  3. thenemirowgroup Says:

    This is in-line with many definitions I have come across online, where the primary distinction between “projects” and “operations” is the on-going nature of operations versus the defined beginning and end of a “project”. I think you have clearly clarified this distinction. Project Manager Info provides a very similar break-down of the two terms, very similar to your statements.

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