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Is Project Management Art or Science?
By Jorge Dominguez

Project Managers are certainly both artists and scientists though not in the context in which we know these words. Project Managers apply a science using art.

Science comes into play when the PM acquires and embraces all the theory he/she has learned through experience, training, certification, etc. PMs use frameworks such as PMBoK or PRINCE based on time-tested methods that have been proven to be effective through years of implementation.

Some science points:

  • Different methodologies and frameworks available (PMBoK, PRINCE, etc.)
  • Standard processes and knowledge areas
  • Uniformly accepted best practices and techniques
  • Same language is spoken
  • A set of standard metrics that measure several project areas
  • Plenty of standard work templates

Art comes into play when the PM applies what is important and relevant of that science. The frameworks, for example, don’t tell you how to do it. They just tell you what can be done (not necessarily a bad thing). You have to learn the “how” on your own or from others’ experiences. Art is the piece that may ultimately make the difference between project success or project failure.

Some art points:

  • Applying the right process for the right project (one size does not fit all)
  • Making things happen
  • Making good and sound decisions
  • Ensuring you have all specifications and requirements that apply to the scope of the project and only the scope
  • Focusing properly on the priorities, mission, goals, features, and tasks in a project
  • Knowing what to do when things go wrong
  • Getting a project to a successful end on time and within budget
  • Leading the project team through execution
  • Running effective meetings
  • Dealing with the politics and bureaucracy of an organization to advance the project

In no way having almost twice as many bullets for art than for science implies that art is more important, in fact they are equally important. However, most concentrate and are aware of the science and I want to demonstrate that there is an art to it too.

I may leave you half full by not diving into each one of the above points in this article due to the brevity of time and the fact that each one of them is a topic for a stand alone article in itself.

Many of us, I think, know where to get, and get, the science part. Most never make it as an artist.

Jorge Dominguez, PMP®

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