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5 Project Management Principles Cheat Sheet by

New Approach to Project Management
principles     management     project     action


There is ample evidence that rule-based prescr­iptive processes are a bad way to shape people’s behavior. But we are still trying to use these methods in project manage­ment. What else should we do?

Stand Outside, Simplify and De-Clutter

There is a mathem­atical theorem that says (immensely simpli­fied) that no system can ever be sophis­ticated enough to describe itself, and that it is always incomp­lete. I think this applies to method­olo­gy-­driven project management practice: no process definition can ever be defined so well as to describe how it should be used. The method­ology relies on human interp­ret­ation to provide it with context.

We have spent so much of the past 50 years attempting to disprove this concept, by contin­ually expanding the processes by which we mandate that projects should be executed. What is clear is that we need to take a different approach. Here are three things we need to do:

1. Take guidance from a place outside of any method­olo­gical process defini­tion: some place which is anchored in more fundam­ental principles and that can help us navigate better: to redirect us should we lose our way in the detail. This cannot happen within a method­ology.
2. Declutter and simplify the process of project manage­ment. Flexible project teams, centred on a goal, driven by strong action­-or­iented princi­ples, can rapidly evolve their own pathways to success.
3. Leverage more of the human capabi­lit­ies that exist within each person in a team.

People have many native capabi­lities that drive them innately to excel in the right circum­sta­nces, including proble­m-s­olving, teaming, self-d­ire­ction and learning, adapta­tion, drive and commit­ment.

 ­ “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-­Exu­pery

Successful project management in uncertain enviro­nments needs a different driver of behavior, which leverages these innate capabi­lities more deeply and less prescr­ipt­ively. Teams need to react more quickly and less prescr­ipt­ively. They need to find solutions and fix problems organi­cally and instin­cti­vely, not wallow in processes that can ultimately take longer to reach the solution.

 ­ ­ “In our experi­ence, complexity can only be addressed by people using their judgment in the moment”. Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman

As leaders, we need to use people’s judgment, but that we need to provide it with guidance.

5 Action Principles Diagram

Project Action Principles

1. Achieve Outcomes, Rapidly
Consci­ously and delibe­rately focus on the achiev­ement of outcomes over the execution of tasks and activi­ties. Outcomes deliver projects, but not all tasks result in outcomes. And move as quickly as the situation allows. Everything else flows from this principle.

2. Fulfill Customer Value, Intera­cti­vely
Any activity, resource invest­ment, or outcome that does not service a customer value propos­ition is waste and probably avoidable. The definition of value must be obtained directly from the customer, not an interm­ediary. Project delive­rables must be validated with customers repeatedly and directly.

3. Build Shared Models, Verifi­ably
Use vivid and graphic models for all project concepts, and constantly validate and update those models. Invest time to share and align these models with project partic­ipants. Constantly refer to the models to embed them into everyone’s planning and thinking, forming a resilient master­-plan for project outcomes.

4. Eliminate Teaming Threats, Ruthle­ssly
Trust and allow the first three principles to provide the enviro­nment for self-t­eaming and collab­oration to naturally occur, instead of forcing popula­rised team-b­uilding processes. Invest your time to identify and eliminate teaming threats that would negatively impact the self-c­reation of the team.

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