The Foundations of Project Management

William Delaney

With looming deadlines, ticking to-do lists, and that constant stream of email newsletters inviting you to try the latest framework/process/platform, the world of project management can get a little overwhelming. Newbies and seasoned professionals alike can get easily caught up in the tasks of the day, and forget about the seemingly simple foundations of project management that all good projects are based on.

So, let’s take a deep breath, zoom out, and reconnect with the basics of project management. These reminders will give you some much-needed perspective that will help you to tackle your next project with fresh eyes.

1. Keep business objectives and goals in mind

Every company, from start-up to major corporation, has business objectives. These are generally formed from forecasts, to improve the company’s bottom line year on year. Often, KPI’s and business goals are all set with good intentions, but are forgotten as the day-to-day project operations take over. Project managers need to stay connected to the wider business objectives of their company as they set smaller goals and milestones within the project, ensuring that each stage adds value to both the end product and the company itself. These goals should be relevant, specific, measurable and easily communicated.

2. Build rapport with those invested

Just as sales and marketing focus on a particular audience, project managers need to empathise and communicate with their own audience: the stakeholders. This can range from colleagues within a PMO team, to C-level executives and often even to external customers. It’s vital that you communicate clearly with these parties, as your responsibilities will include reaching out to them directly to discuss reports, budgets and the overall status of the project. Any miscommunication could have significant impact and end up causing delays or mistrust in your abilities.

3. Be practical about milestones and deliverables

In project management, the finished product is usually referred to as the deliverable. An important job of a project manager is to begin each project by carefully defining what’s involved, what’s expected, the due date, resources and even their own skillset and whether additional training is needed. As you build out the plan for each project, it can be tempting to set unrealistic expectations for what can be delivered and when. A good project manager will be practical about milestones and deliverables; Remember, it’s better to set a slightly later date and deliver on time than to miss a deadline!

4. Plan for things to go wrong

No matter how naturally skilled you are or how many years’ experience you have, bumps in the road are inevitable when it comes to project management. The key to getting through a project with minimal damage is to assess all possible risks from the very beginning. Identifying weaknesses (a.k.a. bottlenecks) and developing strategies to address them will be your best friend. Bottlenecks can be anything from logistical issues, to equipment delays, to over-stretched resources and customer change requests. Identify early!

Hopefully these reminders will help you to re-focus and connect with pillars that create a strong foundation for any project.