The Difference Between Project Management and General Operations Management

The Difference Between Project Management and General Operations Management
Author

Eshna Verma

Last updated June 29, 2018


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When you’re studying for your PMP® exam, there’s a lot to learn in a variety of subjects. In this article, we’ll cover the differences between project management and general operations management. Both are important parts of business—and understanding their similarities and differences will help you answer any related exam questions.

General Operations Management

A general operations manager has a wider scope of responsibility than the project manager—and the general operations manager role is permanent while the project manager role is temporary. 

Operations management is an ongoing function in an organization that performs activities that produce products or services. Operations are ongoing; some examples include accounting and human resources. An organization needs those roles no matter what initiative(s) they may be working on. There are three main types of systems in operation and production management in both manufacturing and service industries:

  1. Mass production system
  2. Batch production system and
  3. Non-repetitive systems.

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Mass Production System
Industries with high-demand products or services and high investment use the product-oriented mass production system, which centers on the important processes that help produce that product or perform the service. Special purpose equipment, such as automated conveyors, are used to perform the functions needed for the product or the service, making it very efficient in producing large quantities of product or service. 

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 is adjusted when production changes from one product to another. Here the complexity of management increases over the batch production system, which is process oriented, where a mass production system is product oriented.

Non-repetitive System
Systems related to low demands are very different from the other two types; 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.

As you can see, the difference between product-oriented, process-oriented, or project-oriented management is very thin and hard to define. To use a simplified example, planning and designing a new car model is a project—whereas running a factory that builds the cars is a mass production system. When it’s time to change the model of the car, it’s time for a more flexible and adjustable process-oriented system.

Project Management

As given earlier, the very fact that the role of a project manager is temporary; a project team is basically a short-term association. In a fixed general operations management team, the team members report directly the manager who leads that team; those member roles 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 other hand, a project team will be made of people from different departments across different sites of the organization. Though the project manager’s job is similar, sometimes project team members may often report to the department manager as well as reporting to the current project manager. As the priority of the other departmental managers change, the project team’s stability can waver. 

It can be challenging to maintain teamwork as the team membership may change every now and then to accommodate the priorities of the departments. 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 often reports to more than one manager, appraisal of his or her work may pose a problem or two.

Differences Between General Management and Project Management

Conclusion

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

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

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About the Author

Eshna writes on PMP, PRINCE2, ITIL, ITSM, & Ethical Hacking. She has done her 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 travelling and photography.

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