This article outlines the four project management principles to guide you on your project management endeavors. It is not all encompassing, by any stretch of the imagination. And I would gladly welcome your feedback and input through comments on this article. Let's dive into these principles of project management I have selected for you.

Again, it's not an end-all list - there are tens if not hundreds of other project management principles that could be addressed. I would gladly welcome your feedback and input through comments on this article.

Be Conscious of What You are Doing

Luck should never be the plan for success as a project manager. Project success should not be accidental - at least not as an ongoing plan. It may work on short-term efforts or when you're working alone. But it's not a good plan for long-term undertakings or when you're leading a project team.

A project, by definition, is something that has a unique aspect to it. Even if you are performing your tenth software implementation of something that is nearly identical to the previous nine, there are still going to be variables that make it different. The environment and IT infrastructure will mean performance variations that will need to be understood and handled, etc. Projects are difficult enough, leaving things to luck makes success that much more difficult to achieve. Plan well, create an effective plan, and utilize repeatable processes and reusable templates.

Invest Heavily in Front End Work

Do it right from the beginning. If you're like me, you get a new piece of software or a new gadget of any type and the first thing you do is start to use it. Directions? Who needs 'em?

When we kickoff projects, we need to have a different mindset. We need to get it right from the start. Invest in the upfront work. Don't jump from handoff right into the project. Plan well up front.

Caution: Jumping in too quickly in project management is going to get you into big trouble in a hurry.

If we don't spend the proper amount of time planning at the beginning of the project, we could stray off course and not even know it. Get the schedule put together IN DETAIL. Dive into those high-level requirements and go over them with your team and customer until you have a nice set of useable, detailed requirements to work from. Don't skip over those up front project planning documents that set the course for communications and practices for the rest of the project. They may save your butt in the long run.

Caution: For many project managers, particularly first-time project managers, investing in front-end represents a personal dilemma - the more time spent up front, the less likely they are to feel that they're actually managing the project.

Too many professionals today, reeling from the effects of our information overloaded society, feeling frazzled by all that competes for their time and attention, want to dive right into projects much the same way they dive into many of their daily activities and short-term tasks. What works well for daily activity or short-term tasks can prove disastrous when others are counting on you, there is a budget involved, top management is watching, and any falls you make along the way will be quite visible.

Below we'll look at the final two of four principles of project management that I've selected to discuss for guiding project managers on their engagements.

Anticipate the Problems that Will Inevitably Arise

Problems will arise on your projects. In the history of all projects, I doubt there has ever been a problem-free one - there are always at least minor issues that come to light requiring some change or action to keep the engagement on course.

The tighter your budget and time frames, or the more intricate the involvement of the project team, the greater the probability that problems will arise. While the uniqueness of your project may foreshadow the emergence of unforeseen problems, inevitably many of the problems that you will experience are somewhat predictable. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Missing interim milestones
  • Having one or more project team members who are not up to the tasks assigned
  • Having the project objectives altered at some point
  • Having phases of the schedule moved around resulting in changes to project resource requirements
  • Falling behind schedule
  • Running over budget
  • Learning about a hidden project agenda halfway into the project
  • Losing steam, motivation, or momentum

Be as Flexible as Possible

Dig deeply to find the facts in situations. If your project involves something that requires direct interaction with your company's clients, and you erroneously believe that you know exactly what the clients want, you may be headed for major problems. Change is inevitable on the project - whether it's a major change in direction or a small change in schedule or a minor requirement.

Caution: All too often, the client says one thing but really means another and offers you a rude awakening by saying, "We didn't ask for this, and we can't use it."

The key is to be flexible and able to adapt the project, the schedule, and the team to the change. Be careful, of course, because letting all change through the door is disastrous. But be ready to embrace change that is necessary.