by Linky Van Der Merwe

What are Project Management Best Practices?

Best Practices

What are Project Management Best Practices?
What are Project Management Best Practices?

The majority of project managers apply project management methodologies and practices in a technically correct way. However, in order to follow project management best practices, they first need to understand what exactly these are.

Defining Best Practice

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 required) 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 are not fixed and should evolve to become better as new ways of doing things are discovered. Best practices are about developing a standard way of doing things to achieve the best results and following them as tried and tested methods.

In summary, project management best practice is a standard approach to follow, that has been proven to work within a particular environment and then gets adopted by most people within that specific context.

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, she makes the argument that project management is both an art and a science. Understanding processes, tools, and techniques are the difficult skills to acquire and are 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.

In my opinion 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 best practice in itself.

Do project management best practices work?

I have worked in organisations with too few specialist resources, a lack of sufficient time for projects and inadequate project budget planning or allocation. I have also worked in highly controlled, standardised approach organisations 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 required, adequate budget is allocated and proper scope and quality management is applied. Usually this was based on project management best practices.

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 yielded 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.

About the author

Linky van der Merwe is a certified project management professional (PMP) and Founder of Virtual Project Consulting.  She has been a senior project manager at Microsoft Consulting Services South Africa for 5 years. She likes to blog about project management and integrated online communication marketing. Her mission is to provide project management best practices advice and to recommend resources to aspiring and existing project managers. She can be reached at linky@virtualprojectconsulting.com

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