Process and Project Management: Complementary Disciplines

The terms “process management” and “project management” are often used interchangeably, but there are important distinctions.

Project and process management are two disciplines used by organizations to advance the work of delivering value to their customers and clients. Both disciplines have standards and practices established by their respective professional organizations and practitioners, and have more in common than may be realized at first.

Understanding the difference will ensure you take the right steps to achieve your goals. In short, processes are ongoing, with constant focus on optimizing efficiency and consistency, while projects are single, time-bound events with a defined start and finish, and optimization primarily occurs once the project is complete.

Projects are intended to create process change, while processes are intended to avoid any variation in results. Project management requires out-of-the-box thinking, while process management requires ensuring that the desired outcome is achieved with all of the appropriate steps occurring. Processes are your company’s guidebook for getting the job done, while projects are one-off tasks that allow for innovation. Both are critical to business success.

Though process management and project management are distinct sets of responsibilities, they work together to create organizational success. Process management encompasses project management by creating the space for innovation to take place. The right process for your business can determine microprocesses, ultimately dictating the flow of your projects. Organizations that lack defined processes often find that projects become chaotic and ultimately unsuccessful.

Understanding the differences between process and project management, as well as the relationship between the two functions, ensures that your approach is designed to maximize success. Your success depends on adopting the appropriate mindset for process work vs. project work. This depends on the goal you want to achieve.

No matter where you are in the lifespan of your organization, your priority must be managing your processes.