Project Management guide

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What Are the Principles of Project Management?

A principle can be defined as an underlying fundamental law or concept. Therefore, the principles of project management are the fundamental rules that should be followed for the successful management of projects. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) does not currently contain an official list of principles for successful projects. However, PMI’s annual pulse survey can help highlight what principles successful project managers and companies are following. Here are the nine principles of project management:

  1.  Formal project management structure
  2. Invested and engaged project sponsor
  3. Clear and objective goals and outcomes
  4. Documented roles and responsibilities
  5. Strong change management
  6. Risk management
  7. Mature value delivery capabilities
  8. Performance management baseline
  9. Communication plan

Let’s take a look at each one of these in a bit more detail.

1. Formal Structure

It’s important for projects to have a formalized structure, including processes, procedures, and tools. If you’ve ever tried to complete a project without a formalized structure (“off the books”), you know how hard it can be to control it and provide it with the attention it deserves. A project should have both a project charter and project plan, as well as a designated project team. This helps ensure it is prioritized and managed successfully. 

2. Project Sponsor

An effective project sponsor is critical to the success of a project. Sponsors are there to champion your project and to be a spokesperson for it with the other executives. A strong sponsor can help overcome roadblocks such as the loss of a key resource. Having an engaged sponsor makes it easier to communicate progress, escalate issues, and guide stakeholders through decision-making processes.

3. Goals and Outcomes

Without clear requirements and approval criteria, it will be difficult to tell if a project is a success or not. For example, you may think you produced software that does everything that was requested, only to have the customer or end user complain you left out a critical component. The most common factor behind failed projects is a lack of clear goals. Project requirements and approval criteria should all be determined and documented at the beginning of the project. It’s important to ensure these are reviewed and approved by all key stakeholders, including the sponsor and customer.

4. Roles and Responsibilities

There are two forms that should be used for documenting and defining the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved with a project. For project team members, a RACI or RASCI is used to define responsibilities and expectations. Here are what the letters stand for:R= Responsible A= Accountable S= Sign-off authority (not always used) C= Consulted I= Involved

In a RACI matrix, team members are listed along the top and tasks are listed along the sides. Each team member is assigned a letter (RACI) according to their role for each task. In this example, Emir is “responsible” for installing parts.For stakeholders outside of the primary project team, a stakeholder register is compiled. This helps you document who your stakeholders are, as well as important information such as the following:

  • Communication preferences (type and frequency)
  • Contact information
  • Level of influence on the project
  • Engagement level with the project
  • Their role within the company
  • Other relevant information or notes
5. Management of Project Changes

A project needs to have a well-defined scope to ensure the outcome meets customer expectations, as discussed in the goals section above. Without strong change management, a project could suffer from scope creep, which is when the scope of a project gradually grows beyond the initial project guidelines. For example, team members or stakeholders may want to add additional features into the product. But if you don’t carefully control changes, you could end up with a really great product that costs twice what you expected and is delivered six months late.

6. Risk Management

Since we cannot execute projects in a bubble, they all face some risks. After all, a risk is simply an unexpected event that impacts your project. It can be good or bad, and it can affect your resources, technology or processes. In order to minimize or eliminate the impact that risks will have on your projects, it’s important to manage risk. This includes identifying, evaluating and monitoring risks, as well as deciding upon action plans to implement if the risks occur.  

7. Value Delivery Capabilities

Your value delivery capabilities are simply your project tools, processes, and procedures that help you deliver value to your customers. This can include your project systems, such as your scheduling software. It may also include your processes, such as using an Agile project methodology. The more mature your processes and procedures are, the more likely your project will be a success. For example, if you have established and tested approaches for delivering successful software projects, you will be better equipped than if you’re starting from scratch.

8. Performance Management Baseline

Projects typically have three basic components: cost, schedule, and scope. Each of these components should have a baseline or plan that performance can be measured against. When these baselines are integrated, it’s called a performance management baseline. This means that when you have a change in any one of the components, its impact will be reflected in the other two as well. So, if you have a scope change, you can see how it impacts both your project schedule and cost, which allows you to better monitor the overall impact of changes to a project. It also improves decision-making, as you can view the whole integrated picture and identify all impacts of potential decisions.

9. Communication

If you’ve worked in project management for a while, you may have heard the saying that project management is 90% communication. The success of a project requires communication of project activities, risks, issues, and status, both within the project team and with other stakeholders. Communication is important for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • Keeping stakeholders engaged.
  • Coordinating tasks and schedules.
  • Decision-making and problem-solving.
  • Identifying and resolving conflicts (both within and outside of the project).
  • Escalating risks and issues.

Further Reading