Project Management Series 1: Project management Vs General Operations Management

Project management vs. General Operations Management


Last updated March 16, 2017


There are three main types of systems in operation and production management:
1) Mass production system
2) Batch production system and
3) Non-repetitive systems.

All of these types are found in both manufacturing and service industries (Shtub, 1994).

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Mass Production System
Industries with high demand product or service and high investment use the mass production system, which centers on the important process that helps produce a product or perform a service. It has limited application and fixed directions. Special purpose equipments are used to perform the functions needed for the product or the service. Information processing and material handling are a lot simpler. Use of conveyors like automated system is extensive. The system is very efficient in producing large quantities of product or service. When there is a need to produce a different product or service, these systems are not easily adjustable and hence may prove to be ineffective under such circumstances. Managing such systems is quite straight forward and less complex. Planning and organizing is a lot simpler because it usually is repeatable work. Management is mainly to do with machineries and raw materials and hence the complexity of human resource management is less.

Batch Production System
When several products or services are required in the same factory, the batch production system serves as a good alternative - especially when the demand is not high, the investment is low, and when flexibility is a must. The system will be adjusted when the production is changed from one product to another.  Using more general-purpose resources attains flexibility. The complexity in planning, scheduling, and controlling is much greater than mass production system. Here the complexity of management increases over the batch production system. The batch production system is process oriented and the mass production system is product oriented.

Non-repetitive System
On the other hand, systems pertaining to low demands are very different from the other two types. Past experience may prove to be less advantageous, because these systems are non-repetitive in nature. The systems put more emphasis on planning, monitoring, and controlling the activities of the product and/or services. The requirements of these systems result in the growth of project management.

It is thus evident that the difference among product oriented, process oriented or project oriented management is very thin and hard to define. To understand it better, planning and designing a new car model is a project whereas running a factory that produces cars from the model is mass product oriented. And when a need arises to change the model of the car, you may go for a more flexible and adjustable process oriented system.

As given earlier, the very fact that the role of a project manager is temporary and the team is basically a short-term association, bringing forth various differences and problems between project management and other managements. In a fixed team as in general operations management, the team members are directly reporting to the manager who is clearly leading the team. The member's stay in the team will generally be long-term. The manager is responsible for creating good team working and setting the norms and behaviors of the team. He/she needs to build trust and respect in the team, encourage the sharing of information, opinions and feelings for the benefit of the team, and set targets to appraise the performance of the team members.

On the contrary, in projects, the team will be made of people from different divisions across different sites of the organization. Though the project manager's job is similar, he/she needs to encounter a few problems.

The team members may often report to the manager of his department apart from reporting to the current project manager. As the priority of the other departmental managers change, the project team’s stability becomes questionable. It will be difficult to maintain the teamwork as the team membership may change every now and then to accommodate the priorities of the departments. For the same reason, the team members do not know each other well and it will thus take some time to establish team norms. Again, in a changing team, the team members who do not know each other may find it difficult to share information, opinions and feelings openly. As the member is often reporting to more than one manager, appraisal of his or her work may pose a problem or two. Also, it requires an additional effort on the part of project manger to create the team identity. The following table 1.1, attempts to explain the main difference between general management and project management.

S NO General management Project management
1 Continuous process One time affair
2 Single state Moves from one state to another i.e. results in change
3 No clear (single) objective Single clear objective
4 No real start and end points Definable start and end points
5 Not much of emphasis on planning Greater need and emphasis on planning as one has to think ahead all the time
6 Resource and machine related More human resource related
7 Product or process oriented Project oriented
8 Repetitive and non unique Non repetitive and unique
9 Simple team building Complex team building
10 Role of manager and team membership is permanent or long term Role of manager and team membership is temporary

                                   Table 1.1 Differences PM Vs Other

To put it simply, project management is unique and highly planned, yet unpredictable. The principal difference is that the project manager has a temporary role, which leads to some specific differences and difficulty in the case of team building effort.

If you've got any questions, comment away!

We wish you all the best in your Project Management Certification journey.


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About the Author

Eshna is a writer at Simplilearn. She has done Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication and is a Gold Medalist in the same. A voracious reader, she has penned several articles in leading national newspapers like TOI, HT and The Telegraph. She loves traveling and photography.


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