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12 Key Principles to a Successful Project


1.     The project vision must be clear and agreed to by the stakeholders.

The first principle to success begins with understanding the vision or goal of the project.  There is a reason the project was initiated and the project manager as well as all stakeholders must understand the business need and what success looks like.  Make sure that all stakeholders understand and agree to the project vision.

2.     Planning is critical to success.

The most critical part of a project occurs during the planning stages.  A successful project is preceded by careful planning including the identification of the tasks which when executed will meet the vision of the project and deliver value to the customer.  The plan should include provisions for impending risks to the project as well as contingency for unknown risks.  Additionally, it is wise to be prepared for and be aware that change will be introduced into the project…be prepared to change the plan.

3.     The scope, budget, and schedule must remain balanced throughout the project.

In project management there is a key concept called the triple constraint or the project management triangle.  The idea is that while managing a project the project manager must keep three constraints in balance; the scope or work that is required to produce the projects end results, the amount of time required to perform the work, and the cost or budget for the project.  Scope, time and cost are almost always competing constraints.  Typically, you cannot change one constraint without affecting one or both of the other constraints.  The key principle is that as change happens, you must keep these three constraints balanced.

4.     The project must deliver a quality product or service.

There is no sense in embarking on a project unless the quality of the product or service that results from that work meets or exceeds the expectations of the customer.  Even if the project is delivered on time, within budget and with the defined scope, it will be a failure if the quality isn’t there.  Quality should be considered from the beginning of the project and at the forefront of everyone’s mind throughout the project.

5.     A team that takes ownership in the project will deliver successfully.

When a team takes ownership in the project with the enthusiasm to deliver increased value to the customer, that project will be successful.  It takes soft skills and leadership by the project manager to foster a unified team, but when successful, great things happen.  A team is most effective when they understand the project vision and can gain a passion for the solution and take ownership in delivering that solution.

6.     The project manager must provide leadership for the team.

The project manager must provide leadership to the project team helping them evolve into a cohesive unit with a clear understand of the project vision.  When successful, the team will be able to deliver greater value to the customer than what would be achieved by a leaderless group of individuals.

7.     The project manager must serve the team.

The project will be successful only if the team succeeds.  The project team consists of individuals who are blessed with their own strengths and skills.  It is important to get these individuals to work together as a team to deliver the service or product which will ultimately provide value to the customer.  Team production increases as the project manager serves their team members by doing things like removing road blocks, facilitating resolution of issues, and in general supporting their every need.

8.     Communication both internal and external to the project must be clear and frequent.

Almost every aspect of project management is facilitated by the written and spoken word.  It is critical that team members communicate often with each other as they work to fulfill the vision of the project.  The project manager must communicate progress that the team is making toward their deliverables as well as surfacing issues and risks that arise along the way.  It is important that all communication inside and out of the project clearly conveys the appropriate message to the intended audience.

9.     Project processes must be effective and efficient.

There are two types of processes: those that add value and facilitate repeatability and reliability of a series of tasks, and those that only get in the way and waste time.  Projects that are successful must embrace and continually improve those processes that add value, and get rid of those that waste time.

10.   A change management plan must be in place in preparation for the inevitability of change.

Change is nothing to be afraid of; in fact if it wasn’t for change, there wouldn’t be a need for project management.  The key is to have a change management plan in place which describes how a request is submitted to the project and how you will manage that change request.  If this plan is documented and understood by all shareholders, change will be managed without disrupting the project.

11.   Issues and risks must be addressed quickly and openly.

Every project has risks that are associated with the venture, and every project will have issues that surface along the way.  The fact that they occur is not unique, however, how they are addressed is unique to a successful project.  It is critical to identify risks at the initiation as well as throughout the project.  Immediately upon identification of a risk, develop a plan how you will manage that risk.  As issues occur, address them quickly and provide the appropriate visibility to shareholders.  Providing transparency of risks and issues is an important principle of managing a successful project.

12.   The project must deliver the expected value to the customer.

We all know a project is measured by successfully delivering the scope on time and within budget.  I believe the true measurement is successfully delivering value to the business or customer.  Value encompasses all three of these components: scope, schedule, and cost (as well as quality).  The value to the customer will not be realized unless the vision of the project is met.

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