Thursday, July 18, 2019

Principles of Project Success (Part II)

Principles of Project Success (Part II)
Project management principles are the foundation on which the profession of project management is built. Conformance to these principles is a prerequisite for successful project management.

I have written about the five principles of project success from Glen Alleman before. And they are still the best I have come across so far.

But last weekend I stumbled on an older blogpost from Bill Duncan that also gives a very clear and interesting perspective on the principles of project success.

Bill Duncan was the primary author of the original version of “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge”.

He wrote the post titled “Principles of Project Management?” in response to a question on LinkedIn, but originally wrote the text more than 20 years ago building on some work done by Max Wideman, Bob Youker, and others.

Bill starts his post with the following definitions.

Principle: A basic truth, law, or assumption; a rule or standard, especially of good behavior; a basic or essential quality or element determining intrinsic nature or characteristic behavior. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Project: A unique, temporary endeavor undertaken to create a product or service.

Project management: The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations from a project. (PMBoK Guide, first edition)

Stakeholders: Individuals or organizations who may help or harm the project.

Next, Bill dives in to his five principles of project management.

Project Management Principles

1) There must be a project.

Project management is best applied to the management of a project, and all projects should be managed with project management. The usefulness of some project management tools and techniques outside the project context does not mean that project management is a substitute for general management. Likewise, the fact that project management borrows heavily from general management does not mean that general management skills and knowledge will be adequate for successful management of a project.

2) Projects must be properly authorized. 

Each project should be formally authorized by a level of management commensurate with the resource needs of the project: the greater the needs, the higher the organizational level which should authorize the project. Unauthorized projects are likely to be unsuccessful no matter how well-managed.

3) The project sponsor(s) must provide adequate resources

Resources include tangibles such as financing, people, and material as well as intangibles such as time and support. The need for the sponsor to provide adequate resources does not absolve the project management team of the responsibility (a) to communicate the impact of receiving inadequate resources or (b) to identify alternative courses of action that may be possible with fewer resources.

4) There must be an integrated project plan

Your plan must be documented and distributed to appropriate stakeholders and must include:

> Scope, schedule, cost, and responsibilities defined at an appropriate level of detail for the size, complexity, and phase of the project.
> A defined process for dealing with uncertainty in scope and work definition.
> Success criteria defining how the project will be judged and measured.
> A defined process for dealing with changes to the plan.

5) There must be periodic assessments of performance against the plan 

Periodic assessments are necessary to ensure that the project will achieve its purpose. Projects which no longer support the purpose for which they were undertaken should be cancelled or significantly redirected.

Principles of Project Success

The Five Immutable Principles from Glen are stated in the form of five questions. When you have answered these questions, you will gain insight into the activities required for the project to succeed in ways not found using the traditional process group’s checklist, knowledge areas, or canned project templates.

I) What does “done” look like? 

You need to know where we are going by defining “done” at some point in the future. This may be far in the future—months or years—or closer—days or weeks from now.

II) How can you get to “done” on time and on budget and achieve acceptable outcomes? 

You need a plan to get to where you are going, to reach done. This plan can be simple or complex. The fidelity of the plan depends on your tolerance for risk. The complexity of the plan has to match the complexity of the project.

III) Do you have enough of the right resources to successfully complete the project? 

You have to understand what resources are needed to execute the plan. You need to know how much time and money are required to reach the destination. This can be fixed or it can be variable. If money is limited, the project may be possible if more time is available and vice versa. What technologies are needed? What information must be discovered that you don’t know now?

IV) What impediments will you encounter along the way and what work is needed to remove them? 

You need a means of removing, avoiding, handling or ignoring these impediments. Most important, you need to ask and answer the question, “How long are you willing to wait before you find out you are late?”

V) How can you measure your progress to plan? 

You need to measure planned progress, not just progress. Progress to plan is best measured in units of physical percent complete, which provides tangible evidence, not just opinion. This evidence must be in “usable” outcomes that the buyer recognizes as the things they requested from the project.

Comparison and Closing Thoughts

When you compare Bill’s project management principles with Glen’s Five Immutable Principles, you will see many similarities.

Principle 1 is implicitly stated by Glen, because his principles refer to projects. But yes, they only apply to projects, so there should be a project in place.

Principle 2 is not part of Glen’s principles and I tend to agree with Bill that, when it comes to larger companies, this is a prerequisite for project success.

Principles 3 and III are similar, but I like Glen’s definition better. The project sponsor is not solely responsible for resources. Suppliers can have resource issues no matter how much money you give them.

Principle 4 is the same as principle II.

Principle 5 is the same as principle V.

Principle I is not a separate principle for Bill, but it is mentioned in principle 4.

Principle IV is not a separate principle for Bill, but I think it should be.

The post made by Bill Duncan has not convinced me to change my adoption of Glen Alleman’s principles. However, it did gave me a very interesting new perspective on project success principles, and I will go back and add a sentence to my previous articles stating that Glen’s five principles are only valid for authorized projects. This addition will cover Bill’s first two principles.

I hope this article will make you think about your own project success principles and practices. When projects do not work out, you can usually trace the root cause back to one of the principles and start fixing it.

In a nutshell: When you want to give a new project the best chances of success, you should start with the basic principles of a project in mind.

When you need some guidance on how to define and measure project success have a look at my Project Success Model here or by clicking on the image.

The Project Success Model
Posted on Thursday, July 18, 2019 by Henrico Dolfing