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Project management principles

A project is a temporary endeavour to create a unique product or service. Temporary means that every project has a definite beginning and a definite end. Unique means that the product or service is different in some distinguishing way from all other products or service.

Projects are undertaken at all levels of the organisation and can involve a single person or many hundreds of people. The duration can range from a few weeks to several years. Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives. Projects produce predetermined deliverables, often within a changeable time frame and budget. They require significant resource planning and management effort which warrants a structured management approach and set of management tools and techniques as set out in the framework, which expresses the following principles.

Principle 1 — Both customer and team must be committed to the project.

A viable commitment between the customer and the sponsor's project team must exist before there is a viable project.

1.1 Projects must be aligned with business objectives.
1.2 The project must be managed to satisfy customer requirements.
1.3 Purpose, objectives and scope must be clearly documented.
1.4 The customer and sponsor are responsible for approving and obtaining project funding.


Principle 2 — Measures of success must be pre determined.

Success means different things to different people. Even at the most basic level, the customer will be interested in benefiting from the project outcome whilst the team members will be seeking success from the process. Success criteria can also change over time, and if the original objectives were not achieved, this does not necessarily mean project 'failure'.

2.1 The customer should nominate both the business benefits to be realised and the criteria which will make the project successful before the project commences.


Principle 3 — Planning. First plan, then do.

Activity does not necessarily equate with progress. Taking time to think through a plan of action is often not considered active management. Insufficient planning in the concept phase, unrealistic project goals and timeframes or under estimating the degree of project complexity, will eventually lead to a reduced ability to achieve the project objectives.

3.1 All projects must produce a project management plan for performance to be measured against.
3.2 Project risks must be identified and managed.
3.3 Procurement must be planned.
3.4 All projects must have a Work Breakdown Structure and responsibility assignment.
3.5 Total project cost should be known throughout its life.


Principle 4 — There must be a single point of responsibility for both the customer representative and the project manager.

A single channel of communication must exist between the customer and the project manager for all decisions affecting the project scope.

4.1 There must be one customer representative and a clearly nominated project manager.
4.2 The project manager should be given sufficient authority to control the project.


Principle 5 — Procedures must be established before work commences.

Policies and procedures must be in place for the conduct and control of the project commitment.

5.1 Progress of the project must be reported regularly.
5.2 Corrective action must be taken early if projects deviate from the project management plan.
5.3 Changes or variations to the project scope must be managed and controlled.
5.4 Project issues must be identified and managed.
5.5 Project documents must be properly filed and managed.
5.6 Contractors must be effectively managed.
5.7 Projects should be open to independent review and audit.


Principle 6 — Scope, time, cost and quality must be mutually consistent and attainable.

These variables are measures of internal project efficiency. If they are not mutually consistent or attainable, then it is unlikely the success criteria will be achieved. The relationship is akin to a four-sided frame with flexible joints at the corners. With one side fixed, any other side can be moved but only by affecting the other two. Fitness for purpose is the most enduring of the variables determining success. Quality of an item, product or service must be such that it achieves the project's minimum requirements. This may range from 'utility' to 'world class', and must be clearly stated.

6.1 Quality of project outputs must be fit for purpose and managed effectively.
6.2 All aspects of project activity should be integrated and co-ordinated.


Principle 7 — Management must provide an informed, supportive and relational organisational environment.

The project team's ability to produce effective results is highly dependent upon the cultural environment of the organisation. This 'cultural environment' encompasses both internal and external relationships and values. Internally, the style of the project manager must be suited to the type of project. Externally, the management of the organisation in which the project takes place must be supportive and free of obstacles consciously or unconsciously placed in the path of success.

7.1 Projects must be adequately resourced.
7.2 The project manager must establish good team and stakeholder relationships.
7.3 Projects must communicate appropriately and early with all stakeholders.
7.4 The project manager must select or have staff trained to provide the skills needed by the project.
Last updated
08 July 2021

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