Are you following project management best practices?
When I started out as a project manager, I always tried to apply project management methodologies and practices in a technically correct way. In that sense, I had a natural tendency to find and use best practices in project management before I even knew that such a term existed or what the proper meaning of project management best practices is.
According to Wikipedia, a best practice is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive, or reward that is believed to be more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. when applied to a particular condition or circumstance.
Best practice can also be defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people.
Project management best practices can and should evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. It is about developing and following a standard way of doing things!
I would summarize it to say that project management best practice is a standard approach to follow that has been proven to work within a business industry or environment and then gets adopted by most people within that specific context.
Some consulting firms specialize in the area of project management best practices. A key strategic talent is required to provide good “best practice” consulting to organizations: the ability to balance the uniqueness of an organization with practices it has in common with other organizations.
Make-Up of a Project Manager
The make-up of a typical project manager consists of a person’s natural abilities or talents, learned skills and project management knowledge.
In the Project Management Paper: ‘Still more Art than Science’ by Kate Belzer, it has been stated that project management is both an art and a science. Understanding processes, tools, and techniques are the hard skills, also referred to as the science of project management.
For successful project delivery, project managers also need soft skills, referred to as the art of project management. Soft skills help to define the business value, clarify the vision, determine requirements, provide direction, build teams, resolve issues, and mitigate risk. Communication is quite simply the most important soft skill. The ability to apply soft skills effectively throughout the life cycle of a project will enhance the success of a project exponentially! Often projects fail because of a project manager’s inability to communicate effectively, work within the organization’s culture, motivate the project team, manage stakeholder expectations, understand the business objectives, solve problems effectively, and make clear and knowledgeable decisions. These are the skills that take time to acquire through experience, coaching, and mentoring.
To me the art and science of project management requires the intuitive application of your talents, your hard and soft skills, your knowledge and experience in the right combination that is applicable to a specific project situation. To find that kind of balance is a project management best practice in itself.
Does project management best practices work?
My work experienced has exposed me to working in organizations with too few specialist resources, lack of sufficient time for projects and inadequate project budget planning or allocation. I have also worked in highly controlled, standardized approach organizations with expert resources where everything in a project is set up to succeed. This means that planning is based on previous similar projects and expert judgement estimates, resources are dedicated to the project for periods when needed, adequate budget is allocated, proper scope and quality management is applied. Of course, all of this was based on project management best practice.
Even though normal risks and issues were experienced in both type of organization’s projects, the organisations where project management best practices were applied consistently, have shown more successful projects and satisfied customers, meaning that these projects always had a better chance of being on time, to budget and with the desired quality.
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About the author: Linky van der Merwe is an IT Project Manager with 15 years IT industry experience and 12 years Project Management experience. She is currently at Microsoft Consulting Services, South Africa.
She consults with small-medium business owners and service professionals about project management and project processes, best practices and successful delivery through projects. She is most experienced in corporate infrastructure projects (upgrades, migration, deployment etc) and process optimisation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org