Undoubtedly, there is a lot that goes into managing projects. From project approval and budgeting to building a high-performing team and monitoring progress, it can all easily turn into one hot mess if the manager is not following certain rules or principles.
That’s exactly what we will be talking about today - project management principles and how they can help you navigate the entire project management process. We will talk about their importance, advantages and how to use them to manage successful projects.
First thing’s first. Let’s define what a principle is.
A principle is a fundamental law or concept. Therefore, a principle in project management is simply a rule that should be followed by project managers in order to successfully complete a project.
So, what are those rules that project managers should follow?
1. Determine the Structure of the Project
The first key project management principle is determining the project structure. Without a well-defined structure, your project will easily fall apart. There are three components of a project structure: project goal, project timeline and project milestones.
This is the starting point. Determining the main objective will set things in motion and will help you build up the entire project structure on it. Clarify the project goal and make sure you communicate it properly to everyone involved in the project. When you’re defining the goal, ask yourself what the project requirements are, what needs to be done and why.
Have a clear project timeline. Write down all the tasks that need to be completed along with reasonable deadlines. Having a project timeline also indicates the order in which tasks should be finished.
Divide your timeline into milestones. By milestones, we mean indicators that help you understand when the project has entered a new phase. The pace in which your team moves from one milestone to another will tell you if you have to make some timeline adjustments or look for ways to increase your team’s productivity levels. Identifying project milestones will help you stay on track and stick to the project schedule.
2. Define your Deliverables
In project management, a deliverable is “any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability to perform a service that is produced to complete a process, phase, or project.”
Once you’ve established the project’s goals and objectives, it’s time to define your project deliverables. Defining your deliverables in advance will help you avoid surprises and prepare you for what’s coming. Moreover, it’s better to know what to expect from each objective in advance, rather than constantly coming back to this stage midway through your project.
Here are a few examples to help you understand what exactly can a project deliverable be:
For a marketing project with an objective to reach out to 100,000 people on social media, a deliverable might be a series of paid advertisements.
For a web design project with an objective to develop a logo and banners, a deliverable might include creating a design mockup.
It would be great if the budget was limitless, however, this is never the case. Project managers have to work with a strict budget therefore, you have to be mindful of your expenses. What you have to do is make sure each phase of your project is accounted for. Consider what possible areas can be cut or amended so that you can save a little bit of money. Last but not least, save a portion of the budget for emergency expenses. Keep in mind that your budget is directly linked to your project schedule. If your timeline goes wrong, your budget will too.
4. Define Roles & Responsibilities
One of the factors that contributes to employee burnout and project failure is unclear roles and responsibilities. If you don’t want to have a team of people who are confused, stressed and lack any clarity around their roles and responsibilities, make sure you clearly define the role of each team member. If you keep things vague and let workers deal with the situation on their own, unnecessary workplace conflicts will definitely arise. Your project will only suffer from such a chaotic work environment.
5. Communication Plan
If you don’t communicate with your team members, stakeholders or other important parties involved in the project, you are destined for bad results. Strong communication from day one is a must when managing projects.
Establishing clear communication channels will help you avoid any mishaps. Utilizing chatting applications, project management tools, virtual-meeting rooms and meeting management software will align team members and everyone will know what others are working on at the moment. Utilizing communication apps will create a streamlined workflow.
6. Project Transparency
Transparency is one of the most important project management principles. Whatever the project data is favorable or not, you can’t hide essential information from your stakeholders, sponsors or team members. If you want to be respected and remembered as a trustworthy project manager, you have to be transparent.
Establish a system in which all members relevant to the project can have easy access to important information. Using a project management software or a document-sharing app can easily create project transparency. Use meetings minutes software to document the outcomes of every meeting and then send them to attendees. This is a great way to inform team members who couldn’t attend an important meeting but still want to know what action items were assigned during the meeting.
7. Risk Management
Every project has a certain set of risks attached to it. A good project manager is always prepared. That’s why it is absolutely essential to assess these risks before the project starts so that if any potential issues arise midway through the project, you would know what to do. Being prepared will also block any delays in execution, limit the impact of the issue and prevent overall project failure.
Risk assessment is basically acknowledging that something might go wrong. You can’t eliminate all the risks from your project as that’s not how perfectly things work in the business world. Have a discussion with your team. What are the risks they think you should definitely consider?
8. Monitor Project Progress
Monitoring and measuring the progress of your project is a basic principle and it’s absolutely essential to the entire project management process. If there was no monitoring, the whole project would go south, team members wouldn’t know what and when to deliver and timelines would become a complete mess. That’s why you need KPIs such as timelines, quality expectations, budgets and more in order to catch issues and quickly make corrections if necessary.
When you assess your previously established KPIs and they tell you that your team is doing a fantastic job, you should definitely celebrate your successes.
When it comes to project management, there is a lot to learn and experience. However, these eight basic project management principles are definitely a great place to start.
Regardless of the type of project you’re in charge of or the project stage you’re in right now, you have to aim for clear communication, transparency and trust-building. Remember, a great project manager recognizes how important the health of a team is and prioritizes it over any missed deadline or project timeline disrupture.
These principles alone won’t help you manage the entire project, though. Thankfully, with all the virtual team management tools we have at our disposal, you can easily navigate through any task, action item, timeline, shared information, meeting minutes, etc. Managing projects can surely be a piece of cake if you combine the right digital tools with traditional managerial vision and experience!