Research at AIIT

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 34th Installment“Project Management and PBL”

by Kiyoshi Sakamori,
Head of Masters Program of Information Systems Architecture

Project Management and PBL

The Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology adopts an educational method named Project Based Learning (PBL). This is designed to foster human resources who can demonstrate excellent performance as architects in each area of expertise, in other words, architects with high ability to carry out their duties. To maximize the effect of the PBL activities, it is important to understand the characteristics of project activities, which form the core of the PBL. Based on this, I would like to sort out the characteristics of project management and identify the factors for improving the effect of the PBL.

Characteristics of a Project
The two most distinct characteristics of a project are originality and terminability. Team activities and target achievement are also the characteristics of a project, but they can be sought in normal organizational business operations and are not unique to project activities. When we do a project-based activity, we should consider the characteristics of such an activity and seek what people around you have not done (originality) and completing the task by the end of the term (closure).
A project is implemented only once and cannot be repeated. A project is organized to attain a unique result each time. It is not enough to analyze the tasks in the past and understand the method of activities. It is necessary to be insightful to develop a new concept in the ongoing project based on past experiences.

What is Project Management?
Project management means aiming to achieve high quality results, while maintaining balance among the scope, period of time, and costs. The scope includes deliverable scope and project scope that produces deliverables. Architects are responsible for the deliverable scope, which can be called the “architecture,” and project managers consider the project scope.
The purpose of the education at the Institute is to nurture architects. If architects want to complete deliverables, they need to consider the project scope as well as the balance with the period of time and costs. Project management that balances the three restrictions is required for them to create something new.

Project Management Activities and Product Activities
The project activities that balance scope, period of time, and costs may be further divided into project management activities and product activities. Product activities are to produce something technical and original as an architect. The product activities by network specialists and those by industrial design specialists are two different things and unique. Project activities are heavily dependent on product activities but are necessary to enhance the effect of the product activities.

Capacities Required for Project Activities
It is said that capacities required for project activities are knowledge about project management, the ability to put project management into practice, and human qualities. Although knowledge about project management can be acquired through books and lectures, the ability to put it into practice and human qualities are not so simple. We could say PBL activities were the opportunity to acquire these two capabilities. They are more appropriate than corporations for the place to cultivate the human qualities in particular.
In corporations, especially in hierarchical and functional organizations, business operations are conducted based on the orders of superiors. Conversely, a project is conducted by a temporary team with a weak hierarchical relationship. PBL is a project, and all participants are on a perfectly equal footing regardless of the company or position. A high level of human qualities is required to lead this type of team and produce a result within a specified period of time.

Effects and Success Factors of PBL
The PBL activities that consider the characteristics and factors of the project produce the maximum educational effect. What is expected from the PBL-style education is the enhancement of the ability to put what is learned into practice and human qualities, but the more important and ultimate objective of the education is to nurture architects. Architects have the power to produce products and knowledge of the product, and a procedure for product construction, conception, etc., are required. The activities to enhance the capabilities to execute the procedure or form a concept are the project management activities, and these activities influence each other.
The growth of students as architects means success of the PBL. For this purpose, it is necessary to fully understand and implement project management.

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