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8 Key Project Management Principles
Project management can be a complex and yet extremely integral practice in the modern business world. It is a composite activity, with multiple dimensions, and depending on the type and size of the project, project management can become very complex. Adhering to a set of defined project management principles can help to simplify things.
At its core, project management encompasses the disciplines of planning, organizing, securing, leading, managing, and controlling resources, all with the aim of achieving a specific goal.
Why is Project Management Important?
Any project can be boiled down to one basic principle: it is a temporary endeavor, marked by a defined beginning and end, and is undertaken by an organization to meet unique goals and objectives. The timeframe of projects is often constrained, limited by funding or the deliverables involves, and the goal of organizational projects is usually to bring about beneficial change to the company or increase its value or profit.
The role of the Project Manager in this process cannot be understated. While maintaining a clear sense of the organizational goals of the project, a project manager should also possess a certain skill set that works to benefit the success of the project itself. Some essential skills for effective project management include:
- Personal Organization
- Problem Solving
- Effective Decision Making
- Time Management
- Sound Judgement
- Team Management
Project management aims to achieve two principle outcomes
The first is obviously to help the organization achieve its project goals, while still honoring the pre-determined constraints of the project itself. Central project constraints include the scope of the project, as well as the time, quality, and budget.
The second challenge involved in project management is optimizing the allocation of necessary inputs. Successful project management relies on the project manager being skilled in implementing necessary resources into the project’s process, in order to help meet the pre-defined objectives.
In general terms, the process of project management can be broken down into five key steps, as outlined by the Project Management Institute:
1. Initiation: outlining the project and obtaining proper approval in order to begin.
2. Plan: developing a project management plan that will help reach project goals.
3. Execution: completing the work as defined in the project management plan.
4. Monitor and Control: reviewing and tracking the progress of predetermined work, and accounting for unplanned changes in the process.
5. Close: completing the project work and receiving approval from the stakeholder.
While these five stages provide a useful overview of the key concepts of project management that can be applied in most business methodologies, there are several specific principles of project management that are essential for any type of project.
The 8 Key Project Management Principles
Here are eight key project management principles you should take into consideration during the development stage of your organization’s next project.
1. Vision and Mission
Any successful project needs to begin with the end goal at the forefront of planning. By articulating the Vision and Mission statements before beginning the drafting, everyone involved will have a crystal-clear image of the ultimate objectives of the project. This first step helps to clarify the expected outcomes, and in turn, how it will be accomplished once the project begins.
2. Business Objectives
This step is where the specific organizational goals or objectives are outlined, and where the expected results are communicated. A project could exist to increase the company’s sales or profit, to improve customer loyalty, employee productivity or engagement, or increase the overall quality of its product or service. Clearly defining the actionable business objectives of a project helps all team members recognize whether their efforts are staying on track or not.
Explicitly defining the quantifiable amount of improvements or results expected should be part of this step, so aim to avoid being vague in your statements.
3. Standards of Engagement
This phase involves outlining which staff members will have a role in the project’s team. It also involves deliberating engagement expectations, including the frequency of meetings, meeting ground rules, who the project owner is, which members are designated to take notes, to distribute project meeting minutes, and so on. Any other project meeting protocol duties should be outlined and assigned during this stage.
4. Intervention and Execution Strategy
This is where the bulk of the project takes place. It encompasses the gap analysis process, which aims to determine the most suitable solution that will resolve the issue you are working on. General quality management concepts can come into play here, ranging from comprehensive root cause analyses, to more basic methods of problem-solving and brainstorming.
Once the best possible solution has been identified, the project team must then map out their execution strategy for carrying out the intervention method. This includes identifying which team members will take on which responsibilities, with the ‘when’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ included in their role assignments.
5. Organizational Alignment (Buy-In)
Checking in on the progress and sustainability of a project is evidently a key component of project management itself. In order to ensure the success of the new initiative or process being introduced, all those that the changes will impact must be onboard. This is referred to as organizational alignment, or buy-in. It is achieved through ongoing, regular and transparent communication.
A useful rule of thumb is to always ensure the message includes the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”) at every level. This ensures stakeholders maintain their interest and engagement around the new initiative.
6. Define Milestones
While not an absolute requirement for every project, defining milestones should be a step taken into consideration during any project plan, especially those dealing with larger and longer projects. Milestones help signify the moments of completion of specific, incremental portions of the project itself, which allows for a transparent way to track progress. They are also proven to be useful in increasing team morale, drawing attention to team member achievements and ensuring all team members’ efforts are recognized and valued.
7. Accountability and Responsibility
This project management principle is essential to both the project manager and every individual team member. The project manager has a specific skill set that helps to keep the team on task, but all individual members must have the ability to hold themselves accountable for the tasks they need to complete.
Accountability can be ensured through constant communication, where team members can freely communicate with one another about what they need and when they need it. Project managers should also be in constant communication with stakeholders, providing necessary updates on the progress of the projects, and relaying information or feedback to their teams regularly.
8. Retrospect and Measuring Success
Retrospectives are an essential project management principle that iron out the kinks or faults in the process, ensuring the project runs as efficiently as possible. Both the project manager and the team members themselves should review / conduct a post-mortem of the project after its completion, discussing the areas of success and the areas that need improvement. This information can then be taken and applied to the next project, so the process is being continuously improved.
This phase also includes the calculation of the return on investment (ROI) of the completed projects. If the cost of investment was higher than its return, the project can be deemed as ultimately unsuccessful. By recognizing which projects are successes, and which are failures, changes can be made in upcoming initiatives that increase the chances of future success.
Final Thoughts on Project Management Principles
While potentially a complex process, project management is an integral business practice that ensures consistent growth and increased productivity within the proceedings of any organization. Project management aims to achieve all the project goals and objectives while honoring pre-defined constraints and works to optimize the allocation of resources and their integration in the project itself.
The project management principles listed above should act as a guide for a successful project. They are necessary assets when charting a path to project completion and can work as a continuous improvement tool for continued success in the future.