The Basic Principles Of Project Management

The Basic Principles of Project Management

Last updated on 14th Oct 2020, Artciles, Blog

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             Right now project management certification is all the rave, but I have been using a similar change model for quite some time with great success. It’s called the ‘Six Principles of Service Excellence’, and it transitions easily to basically any type of project or initiative you are trying to effectively implement. For the project management aficionados and novices out there, think of it as the six principles of project management.

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As a Performance Consultant, I regularly use these basic principles when launching a new initiative or learning and development programme, and especially when integrating new HR, Quality or, Operational Improvement Processes.

Project Management and Its Importance

It doesn’t matter if you’re a certified project manager or this is the first project that you’re running, it’s important to understand the basic project management principles to ensure your initiative runs smoothly and successfully.

At its simplest level, the Project Management Institute breaks the entire process down into five broad areas:

  • Initiating – The process of outlining your project and obtaining proper approval to begin.
  • Planning – The process of developing your project management plan to reach your project goals.
  • Executing – The process of completing work as defined in your project management plan.
  • Monitoring and Controlling – The process of reviewing and tracking the progress of predetermined work while accounting for unplanned changes.
  • Closing – The process of completing the project work and receiving approval from the stakeholder.

While these five phases provide an excellent high-level view of the key concepts of project management for most methodologies, when diving deeper you can get more specific about the principles and practices that are essential for any type of project.

Vision and Mission

In order to be successfully executed, every project or initiative should begin with the end in mind. This is effectively accomplished by articulating the Vision and Mission of the project so it is crystal-clear to everyone. Creating a vision and mission for the project helps clarify the expected outcome or desired state, and how it will be accomplished.

Business Objectives

The next step is to establish two to three goals or objectives for the project. Is it being implemented to increase sales and profit, customer loyalty, employee productivity and morale, or product/service quality? Also, it’s important to specifically quantify the amount of improvement that is expected, instead of being vague.

Standards of Engagement

Simply put, this means establishing who will be part of the project team? What will be the frequency of meetings? What are the meeting ground rules? Who is the project owner? Who is designated to take notes, and distribute project meeting minutes and action steps? This goes along with any other meeting protocol that needs to be clarified.


Intervention and Execution Strategy

This is the meat of the project and includes using a gap analysis process to determine the most suited intervention (solution) to resolve the issue you are working on. There are many quality management concepts that can be applied ranging from a comprehensive “root cause analysis” to simply “asking why five times.” Once the best possible intervention has been identified to resolve the issue, then we must map out our execution strategy for implementing the intervention. This includes identifying who will do what, when, how, and why?

Organisational Alignment

To ensure the success and sustainability of the new initiative or process brought on by this project, everyone it will directly impact must be onboard. To achieve organisational alignment (or buy-in), ongoing communication must be employed in-person during team meetings, electronically via email and e-learning (if applicable), and through training. The message must include the WIIFM “what’s in it for me” at every level; otherwise most stakeholders will not be interested or engaged around the new initiative.

Measurement and Accountability

And last, how will we determine success? Well, a simple project scorecard that is visually interesting is a great way to keep everyone updated and engaged. A scorecard is an excellent resource for holding employees, teams, and leaders accountable for the implementation, refinement, and sustainability of the new initiative or project. Accountability means that consistently, top performers will be rewarded and recognised; while those needing improvement will be coached with specific expectations and consequences clearly outlined.


Even before you manage a project, you must commit yourself to success in that endeavor. Your goal as a project manager is the successful completion of the project.

This isn’t merely about keeping the project on schedule and within budget. Many a project has come in on time and with money to share, but the goal was never fully achieved. That is project failure.


Are you committed to the project? You better be! But so must every other person involved in the project.

You must have the sponsor and the team on board, too, or else you don’t have a viable project. This commitment is crucial before the project is even planned, yet alone executed.

By commitment, we mean an agreement on project goals and objectives, scope, quality and schedule. Once you have these you’re ready to work.


This is the first thing you’ll have to think about when managing a project. The structure will basically stand on three pillars: your project goal, resources and time.

What you must know is the reason for the project, which might seem obvious, but this question defines the project and leads to its structure.

The next step is understanding how long it will take to accomplish that goal, so you’ll want to have a timeline that’s broken up by milestones, marking major phases in the project.


You have a structure, but you must move into the definition phase to fully grasp the project. That’s a principle often passed over at the expense of the project.

It’s easier said than done, however, with many voices offering differing opinions of what the project is. Your job as project manager is to make it clear what the project is about, which can be problematic when there are many stakeholders.

Defining the project is not a one-time event, but something that must be revisited throughout the project. You must make sure that everyone, especially your team, has a clear definition in mind so they can work productively.


By transparency, we mean that you must report on the progress of the project to your sponsors and stakeholders. You can’t hide anything from them, or at least you do at your own risk, for it’ll inevitably come back to haunt you.

Of course, your sponsors and stakeholders don’t need you to drown them in minutia about the project. They want to see the broad strokes regarding progress, budget and schedule.

Save the details for your team. Yes, you must be transparent with your team. They need reports too, but you want to have those reports customizable to create effective reports that hits the target audience for whom they’re intended.

When it comes to transparency, has the tools to make that principle a reality. Our real-time dashboard is a window into the project, which is constantly being updated when team member’s file their status reports. The dashboard’s many project metrics automatically crunches those numbers and displays them in easy-to-read graphs and charts, which can then be shared or printed out for reporting and meetings.


While reporting to the various participants in the project is key, there must be a primary communication channel between yourself and the project sponsor. This is the only way to ensure that project decisions are properly implemented.

Without having a singular way to disseminate what the sponsor wants to the project manager, you’re not being efficient or effective in administrating the project. Even if there are multiple sponsors, they must speak with one voice or risk sending the project into chaos.

You have the responsibility to set this line of communication in place, finding the right person, with the right skills, experience, authority and commitment in the executive team to facilitate this important task.


To progress in a project, a project must have well-defined roles, policies and procedures in place. That means that everyone must know what they’re responsible for and who they answer to. There needs a delegation of authority for any project to function.

It also means that you must have thought out how you’re going to manage the scope of work, maintain the quality of the project, define its schedule and cost, etc. Without these things being figured out at first, you’re putting the project at risk.

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Life Cycle

The life cycle of a project are its phases, from planning to initiation, monitoring to closing. Each phase of the project is dependent on planning it and then doing it.

Milestones determine the start and end of these project life cycles. You can think of them as signposts on the drive to reach your project’s destination.


 For a project to work, you must have a culture that supports the needs of all those involved. It might sound like mollycoddling—this is work, after all—but you don’t want anything to disrupt the effective productivity of your team.

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