Every decision a project manager and their team make should be based on fundamental project management principles.
The job of a project management team is highly complex, and delivering a project from its initial phase and providing results to the client requires a lot of knowledge, collaboration, and empathy.
Regardless of the experience of the project management team and its members, it is entirely expected that the team will encounter many obstacles or crises. But whatever the situation, the appropriate response to such circumstances should be anchored in project management principles.
In the following text, we will cover 12 fundamental project management principles that will help your team reach their maximum potential.
What is Project Management About?
Project management is a dynamic discipline that orchestrates and guides the execution of projects from start to finish.
It involves the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet project goals and objectives within the defined constraints of time, budget, and scope. Project management is about effectively managing resources and risks to deliver successful outcomes.
The primary goal of project management is to achieve project objectives while ensuring project quality, adhering to timelines, and utilizing resources efficiently. It provides a structured approach to planning, organizing, and controlling various project activities and, in so doing, fosters collaboration among team members and stakeholders.
By employing proven methodologies and best practices, project management enables effective communication, risk mitigation, problem-solving, and decision-making.
12 Project Management Principles
Project management can be successful and streamlined when it is based on certain principles that create a solid foundation for effective project planning, organization, leadership, and control of activities, leading to the desired project outcomes.
Follow the next 12 project management principles for successful leadership in project management:
#1. Formal Project Structure
Before initiating any project, a clear framework is needed to ensure its successful implementation.
The project structure defines the organizational structure, including the types of roles required for project execution, the relationships within the organization, and the reporting hierarchy.
Understanding the hierarchy within an organization is crucial for effective task allocation and establishing quality and open channels of communication.
#2. Clear Project Goals
To ensure that a project progresses in the right direction, it is essential to define the project goals, i.e., the desired results that we aim to achieve.
Emphasizing the project idea and the problem it solves is important during the project proposal phase. Clearly presenting the project’s goals and outcomes to potential stakeholders helps them recognize the value of the project, support it, and provide the necessary resources for its realization.
With clear goals, we can stay on track and follow the project’s roadmap toward successful completion.
#3. Defined Roles & Responsibilities
For a project to run smoothly and maintain a good workflow, it is necessary for each team member to understand their assigned roles, the responsibilities that come with those roles, and the tasks associated with them.
It is crucial for everyone in the team to be aware of each other’s roles within the organization, enabling them to know who to approach for assistance.
One valuable framework for defining and clarifying roles and responsibilities in a project is the RACI model, which stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
You can see the RACI matrix above, so let’s clarify what each letter in the RACI framework represents and how it can help everyone in the team know their role:
- Responsible (R): This person or group is responsible for completing the tasks or activities associated with a specific role. Basically, they are the ones who do the work.
- Accountable (A): This person is ultimately accountable for the success or failure of the project or a specific task. They make the final decision and are accountable for the outcome. There should be only one A for each task or role.
- Consulted (C): These are individuals or groups that are consulted for their expertise or input before a decision is made or a task is completed. They provide valuable insights and feedback.
- Informed (I): This category includes individuals or groups that need to be informed about the progress or outcomes of a project or task but don’t have an active role in its execution. They are kept in the loop to stay informed about developments.
#4. Alignment & Communication Plan
Successful project management relies on establishing effective communication channels within an organization to ensure everyone is informed about the project’s progress.
Building a strong foundation for healthy and open communication can be achieved through various tools, such as collaboration tools, which facilitate transparency, accessibility, easier communication, continuous feedback, and progress.
Effective communication ensures that everyone stays on track, enables the flow of information, and aligns client requirements and expectations with the organization’s work methodology, which is crucial for project success.
#5. Risk Management
Risk management is a fundamental project management principle that cannot be overlooked. To stay ahead in business, it is necessary to operate cautiously, continually strive for business improvement, control operations, identify areas for progress, and identify potential risks that could hinder progress.
By developing strategies to address risks, you prevent unforeseen circumstances from affecting your project. Recognizing and resolving problems in a timely manner allows you to meet deliverables on time and avoid delays.
#6. Project Budgeting
Budgeting plays a vital role in ensuring the success and high-quality execution of projects. Without this resource, effective project management would be impossible.
Before embarking on a project, careful planning of potential expenses is essential. This includes a thorough evaluation of costs associated with labor, resources, materials, space, and more. By transparently presenting stakeholders with a detailed breakdown of projected expenses, organizations can facilitate realistic activity planning.
However, it doesn’t stop there.
Effective budget management and control are crucial to preventing the occurrence of insufficient funds, which could potentially bring project progress to a halt. By diligently monitoring the budget and recording any instances of budget overruns, informed decisions can be made for future activities, ensuring continued success.
#7. Change Management Plan
Anticipating and being prepared for unexpected challenges is crucial in project management. Despite careful planning, it’s important to acknowledge that deviations from the original plan can occur. That’s why having a contingency plan, or “plan B,” is essential.
This is where the change management plan comes into play, enabling you to effectively address and manage any modifications that may arise during the project. Whether it’s a time constraint, changes in client requirements, resource limitations, or unforeseen circumstances, a proactive approach to change is necessary.
By embracing adaptability, aligning strategies with evolving circumstances, optimizing resource allocation, and proactively preventing disruptions, you can navigate the project’s challenges and ensure its successful outcome.
#8. Performance Baseline
The project baseline is a vital component of effective project management. It establishes the starting point, the reference against which progress is measured, and the foundation for evaluating project success.
A project baseline encapsulates the initial plan, scope, schedule, and resources, providing a clear roadmap for execution and monitoring.
The baseline is a reliable compass at its core, ensuring the project stays on track and aligned with its objectives. It captures stakeholders’ collective understanding and agreement, serving as a tangible representation of their shared vision.
By setting a solid project baseline, teams gain clarity and direction, allowing for efficient decision-making and resource allocation throughout the project lifecycle.
#9. Value Delivery Capabilities
Understanding stakeholder needs, creating solutions that fulfill those needs, and continuously measuring and improving the value provided by the project are the core aspects of value delivery capabilities in project management.
Although this may seem straightforward, in reality, it can be complex. The project management team’s knowledge, patience, and empathy play a crucial role here.
When it comes to this principle, it is essential to follow these steps:
- Firstly, conduct a stakeholder analysis to understand their needs.
- Then, proceed with the phases of value identification and creation. This may involve developing products, services, processes, or systems that meet stakeholder needs and expectations.
- Constantly monitoring and measuring project benefits is essential. To achieve this, establish clear metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that can quantify the value delivered.
- Lastly, track the progress the specific project brings and strive for continuous improvement of the entire team. If necessary, do not hesitate to change your approach.
#10. Milestones & Timeline
Determining project milestones involves mapping tasks or events crucial to the project whose achievement brings your team one step closer to project completion. This way, the project management and executive teams have complete insight into the project’s progress.
On the other hand, it is clear that the project timeline is significant and cannot last indefinitely. The interests of everyone, whether it is the company board, the project management team, or stakeholders, are aligned in the desire to conclude the project within an appropriate time frame.
In addition to mapping key events, determining a timeline or creating a task list, whether daily, weekly, or monthly, keeps the team focused and directed toward the ultimate goal.
In any case, milestones and timelines are critical factors in achieving the final result and are worthy of attention for every team.
Transparency of the project as a whole and all its other segments is crucial because a team executes the task. To achieve synchronization and uniformity, every team member must be familiar with all the data, decisions, and plans at any moment.
Transparency implies providing stakeholders with relevant information, project status, and progress to ensure everyone is on the same page.
There are numerous project management tools and software that will contribute to transparency.
#12. Monitor Progress
It is necessary to implement a monitoring process to determine whether a project is moving in the right direction and whether the team is adhering to fundamental project management principles.
By consistently tracking the project’s progress daily and weekly, you establish the foundation for evaluating the project’s progress, the performance of employees, and the stakeholders’ satisfaction with the achieved results.
This, in turn, opens the door to improving work approaches, potential changes in methodologies, and an overall assessment of whether the project has met the expectations of all participants.
Project management principles are similar to those found in science, sports, and other business settings.
These principles serve as the foundation for effective and high-quality project management, providing solutions to any issues or uncertainties that may arise.
By returning to these basic principles, which are universally accepted, organizations can think of better outcomes for their projects and foster a culture of accountability among employees and the project management team.