13 Universal Project Management Principles for Beginners

13 Universal Project Management Principles for Beginners
Vlad Kovalskiy
October 18, 2021
Last updated: October 18, 2021

Any project can be defined as a set of tasks that need to be completed to reach a specific goal.

The main challenge of project management is to achieve the required objectives while considering such constraints as time, quality, and budget. You have to ensure proper communication, determine potential risks, allocate the given resources, strive to meet your project deadline, etc. Taking care of so many things can be stressful, especially if do not have any experience in management. And if important details slip your mind it may not come as a surprise.

How do you acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to perform good work? Applying basic project management principles can help you go in the right direction. They are not strict rules, so you may need to adjust some of them to your specific requirements.

Here are 13 universal project management principles for beginners:

1. Set clear project goals

Not having clear goals is one of the most common mistakes that may lead to a failed project. Therefore, this principle is a crucial element for successful implementation. It is recommended to set goals by applying the SMART paradigm (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related). They should be defined before your project starts and approved by all stakeholders. This will help avoid misunderstanding amid the implementation process.

2. Determine your deliverables

A deliverable is anything promised to your customer as an output of your project. It may be tangible or intangible. For instance, it can be a software product, a report, training materials, server upgrades, or any other type of service. It should be something specifically created during your project. After setting goals, you need to determine your deliverables and make sure everyone understands what outcome is expected.

3. Structure your project

It can be hard to control the stages of your project without a proper structure. You might easily get distracted by less important things. First and foremost, you need to define your task priorities, which will help achieve maximum productivity and complete your project on time. You can also segment large projects into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Identifying milestones is another essential factor of efficient management. They represent certain phases of your project and show important achievements. Milestones allow you to see your progress during the process of implementation. For instance, completing a crucial task your project depends on is a major achievement.

4. Define clear team roles and responsibilities

Defining clear roles is one of the most important project management principles. Team members tend to work more effectively when they share a common understanding of each other's responsibilities. It helps reduce confusion and increase productivity. If roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined, it may lead to a lack of clarity among team members in regard to the expectations they have of one another when working together on achieving certain goals. It may result in misunderstanding and employee conflicts.

5. Create a project charter

A project charter is a document that should entirely describe your project. It should contain a general overview of your budget, an implementation plan, the main stakeholders, goals and constraints, and benefits. Keep it short; there is no need to cover every detail in this document. Have your employees provide some insights on how to better write your charter.

6. Build a culture of accountability

Setting accountability before your project begins is an essential component of effective management. At your kickoff meeting, you need to make your expectations clear by establishing an accountability system. Each team member should understand how you expect them to hold each other accountable. Projects mostly involve interdependent tasks. So explain how they relate to one another and how your employees need to perform their work for the benefit of your entire team. If you have to deal with poor performance, try to handle it during one-on-one meetings. If you want your team member to improve, you need to provide specific examples of what is lacking, explain what standard is required, and what steps should be taken to make their performance better.

7. Balance your resources

The amount of resources in many cases is limited. Going over budget is one of the main reasons projects fail. It indicates that the project manager and supporting executives lost control, which has a negative impact on your company's reputation. So you need to manage your resources carefully, especially if you work on a large-scale project. To efficiently allocate them, you need to conduct an estimation first. It is recommended to consider unexpected expenses, holidays, various corporate events, and employee vacations. Make sure to avoid resource over-allocation. It happens when a resource is used for a greater amount of work.

You may use such tools and methods in judging of experts, published estimation data, alternative analysis, and project management software. It will help you evaluate your resources and constraints to find the best combination for your project.

8. Evaluate potential risks

Conducting a thorough risk analysis allows you to understand how a particular risk can impact your project in terms of quality, schedule, and expenses. To identify project risks, you may consult with subject experts, review the technical details of your project and backgrounds of your team members. Also, such instruments as SWOT analysis, brainstorming, Delphi techniques, and influence diagrams are used. Once you have determined the risks, you may work on creating a risk management plan. If you have an appropriate strategy, you can minimize or eliminate their negative impact on your project.

9. Be ready for changes

To effectively manage your work, you need to consider how an adjustment or replacement may impact your processes. This project management principle is closely connected with risk management. You should determine the effect a certain change can have on your project as a whole. Your team members need to evaluate what impact a change in one area of your project may have on other areas. All changes should be documented to maintain an audit trail and ensure compliance with internal and external controls. Different types of change management tools can help research, analyze and implement changes. They may include spreadsheets, Gantt charts, and flowcharts. Large companies use software applications specifically designed to assist managers with planning, tracking, and delivering changes. Using software lets you provide stakeholders with an integrated view of various changes and their impact on your project.

10. Ensure effective communication

Successful projects are often based on efficient communication. It helps unite team members and stakeholders to a project's strategy and goals. It allows each participant to clearly understand their roles and responsibilities. Without efficient communication, there is a possibility of efforts being duplicated by multiple people. Also, essential goals and milestones can be missed and resources misallocated. Studies show that improved project communication significantly increases the likelihood of success. So make sure to provide communication guidelines at the beginning of your project, specify the tools you would like to use in your work process. You also should explain what type of information needs to be shared and who should be notified in particular cases.

11. Track your progress

Tracking progress throughout the entire project lifecycle is crucial since it helps team members stay motivated and perform better work. Ask such questions as "Is the project on time?" or "Does it need to be redirected from its original scope?". You can measure key performance indicators, which implies converting specific data into useful metrics. KPIs provide an overview of your project's current state and allow you to evaluate your overall progress. These indicators should be linked to a particular objective; so, be realistic, simple, and create a time frame. They are divided into such categories as: budget, quality, effectiveness, and deadlines. Communication is key to ensuring your project runs smoothly. Check in with your team members regularly. It will allow you to build trust and help them when they are having difficulties performing certain tasks.

12. Foster open communication

Project transparency is a culture of visibility within a team project. It implies being honest and sharing all relevant information about your project. Multiple surveys show that honesty is one of the factors which determines employee happiness at work. Your aim is to make your team feel they are a part of your project. However, make sure not to share any confidential or personal information.

To provide visibility, you can use project management tools. It will allow you to make your project data available to each team member. With this software, everyone can see the status of your project, share calendars, and track progress.

Bitrix24 provides an efficient tool that lets users set tasks, manage workflows, track performance indicators, control deadlines, and create to-do lists and task dependencies. The platform offers unlimited projects, tasks, and subtasks. You can also track time spent on each task and use other time management instruments. Multiple collaboration tools guarantee effective communication between your employees and external users. They include social intranet portals, audio and video calls, file sharing, work chats, shared calendars, and more.

13. Create a supportive environment

The team's ability to produce effective results depends on the cultural environment of your company. Make sure to create an environment that supports the needs of those participating in your project. It helps keep your employees motivated and improve productivity. Also, remember your style of management should be suited for the project at hand.


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