Managing projects whether solo or as part of a team can be challenging. Inevitably, there are deadlines, budgets, client requirements, risks, and varying priorities to think about. All of that can get overwhelming pretty quickly.
That’s why following some key project management principles can help boost productivity, set realistic expectations, and ensure more project success.
13 project management principles to kickstart your productivity
These 13 project management principles aren’t rigid rules or structures that you must follow. Instead, they’re guidelines for enhancing your or your team’s productivity. Following these core principles will set you on the right path for starting and executing any project.
1. Clearly define project goals and objectives
Before you dive into working on any project, clearly define your goals. The goals and objectives you set for your project will be a key determiner in the success or failure of the project.
When you define your goals before the work begins, the team, the client, and you, all set realistic expectations of the project. That way you can avoid any potential future misunderstandings and manage everyone’s expectations from day one.
Here’s an example of setting quarterly objectives and expectations using the project management platform Monday.com:
2. Nominate one experienced project leader
While everyone on the team should have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the project, you need someone to make final decisions and oversee the completion of each task and project stage. Otherwise you may run the risk of slow decision making, endless tasks, and limited quality checks.
Nominate one experienced project leader who can oversee the whole project from start to finish,delegate tasks, and make key decisions.
Your chosen project leader needs to be someone who’s comfortable multitasking and working between stakeholders, team members, senior managers, clients, and stakeholders. They’ll need to be solid communicators who can clearly express their expectations and goals for team members.
Project management software like Kissflow is essential for maintaining a complete overview of projects from start to finish. It makes it easier for project leaders to delegate tasks, evaluate workloads, and prioritize different moving pieces:
3. Know the project deliverables
When you’ve defined the project goals and objectives, it’s time to clarify the project deliverables. Deliverables are the concrete items or services that the successful close of your project will bring.
A deliverable could be any unique demonstrable product, new feature, result, or service capability.
You can determine your project deliverables by thinking about your objectives.
For example, if the end objective is that users can better manage, track, and analyze their company marketing budget, your deliverable might be software that allows users to upload data and then monitor, track, and manage as they need.
You might also create some informative guides and training manuals so that users know how to operate the new software effectively.
Here’s an example of what your project deliverables could look like:
4. Set out clear team roles and responsibilities
Few things cause more problems than poorly defined team roles and responsibilities. When people don’t know what they should be doing, or how their tasks relate to other team members’ roles, it’s easy for projects to get derailed.
Blurred lines around responsibilities can also lead to unnecessary disagreements, tasks being completed twice, or items not being finished.
When team members know what they need to do when and how their responsibilities fit into the bigger picture, your project will be more likely to run smoothly and be a success.
During the project kickoff phase, clearly outline each team member’s role to ensure everyone collaborates effectively together.
5. Evaluate project risks
Whether it’s a risk of incompletion, going over budget, or running out of other non-monetary resources, there are risks associated with managing projects.
Before you officially launch your project, it’s essential to identify all the potential risks and try to mitigate them at the beginning rather than being caught out by a surprise risk later down the line.
Make it a collaborative process and ask all team members to chip in risks they think you should consider.
A solid risk assessment acknowledges that things might go wrong. While you can’t prevent all possible risks, you can properly prepare for them and save your project from failure.
6. Know the project priorities and milestones
Sometimes when you’re in the middle of a complex project, it’s easy to get sidetracked by smaller details that feel important at the time but aren’t the priority.
Knowing your project priorities and key milestones will help you evaluate progress and show you where you are. Defining your task priorities from the outset will show you where to direct the team’s focus in the event of a task conflict or problem.
To define your priorities:
- Set key project milestones in the planning phase so you and your team know if your project is on track.
- Identify KPIs and metrics that give your team a tangible sense of progress.
- Rate tasks on a scale of 1-10 according to their importance.
Here’s a visual example of how your project milestones could look:
7. Create a system of accountability and responsibility
Maintain a sense of accountability by keeping team members invested and motivated by the project.
To do this, choose a central project management system that enables you to assign tasks and deadlines to specific team members. Make sure everyone knows what they should be working on and when you expect to receive completed work. Automated email and chat reminders can help make people feel responsible for their work by ensuring they don’t forget about it.
All team members should have access to the project management tool and be able to easily track progress and see their role in the project on a big picture level.
When you take time to set up an effective project management system from the start, you’ll also free up your own time as a project manager. You won’t need to micromanage every small detail and instead give your team members the confidence to work to their strengths and better manage themselves and their time.
Using project management software like Trello, you can easily assign tasks to team members with deadlines:
8. Set a realistic budget
Every project has limited resources. To maximize your chance of project success and completion, it’s important to think about a realistic budget so you have access to enough resources.
You need enough resources to give yourself some room for unexpected costs, delays, and sensible timelines. At the same time, make the best use of project resources. Take measures throughout the project’s duration to ensure you’re saving expenses where possible and staying on track.
We recommend uploading your budget onto a project management app like ProjectManager so that you can track your costs and expenses in real-time:
9. Create a strategy for initiation
Project initiation is all of the preliminary tasks that need to be completed before any other project activities can kick off. During this stage, you’ll need to complete all of the admin tasks like creating feasibility documents, business cases, as well as liaising with stakeholders and any other managers.
Following a proper initiation strategy ensures you keep all your project admin docs organized from the get go. That means when you’re halfway through the project and a stakeholder asks to see a feasibility document, you’ll know that you have one and where to find it.
Make sure all your relevant project initiation documentation is stored in one easily accessible central location so people can check documents when they need them.
10. Have a strategy for execution
Project execution usually starts with an initial project kickoff meeting to officially start the project. This is where you share your vision and goals for the project, assign tasks to team members, and set everyone off to get started.
During the execution stage, make sure you have a way of recording errors, changes in direction, or other unexpected events. That way you can keep things running smoothly even in the event of change.
11. Build a communication plan
It’s easy for project managers to set up multiple communication channels like Slack, email, and project management chats to keep everyone updated on project progress. But when there are so many different channels to keep track of, it can be overwhelming for team members.
That’s why a clear and methodical communication plan is essential for keeping your project on track. Implement guidelines surrounding your chosen communication channels whether that’s email, Slack, or daily Zoom meetings.
You may choose to use different communication methods for different types of task updates. For example, team members might have to update their project management dashboard daily to update others on task progress. And you might also have a weekly team Zoom meeting to share general progress and sticking points.
The key is that everyone on the team understands how to communicate different project updates via the right channels.
It’s also important to set realistic expectations with stakeholders and clients about when they can expect to receive project updates. People need to know when they can expect certain information about the project.
Create a clear communication plan from the outset so everyone is on the same page about communication expectations.
Tagged comments within your chosen project management app can help keep everyone informed about small daily task updates:
12. Track and monitor progress
To make progress a tangible item that teams can more easily track, it’s important to set up some KPIs. Your KPIs might include budgets, quality expectations, and project timelines.
During the project, track your project progress and regularly review your KPIs. That way if your project starts to go over budget or isn’t hitting timeline expectations, you can catch problems early and make adjustments before they derail your project.
Here’s an example of how you could set up a visual dashboard to track your project KPIs:
13. Have a process for closing the project
It’s important to create a project closure process, so your project doesn’t get stuck in a neverending feedback loop or become something forever unfinished.
Even if you didn’t meet all the project goals and objectives, you still need to wind things down formally. To do this, formally hand over the finished product, or new features to the stakeholder. Then, provide guidance on how to operate and troubleshoot the new product.
If you didn’t complete everything you had hoped to finish, create a protocol for what happens next. Will you complete these items at a later date or are they no longer a priority?
You need to also create an official sign-off document that means your work on the project is complete and is now in the hands of the stakeholders or client.
It’s also a good idea to hold a meeting with team members and stakeholders about lessons learned and how you can improve for next time.
Implement these project management principles to boost your project success
Project success often boils down to effective project management. Follow these 13 project management principles and see how you can more easily collaborate with team members and stakeholders.
If you aim for project efficiency, streamlined processes, and clear communication, you’ll be on track to be a solid project manager. Ready to start managing projects using these principles? First, check out the AppSumo Store, we have some of the best software deals available.