Why Implementing Project Management Best Practices Means Something Different for Everyone

Filed Under Mind Mapping

different_pieces
Arwen Petty

by
April 29, 2013

How many times have you read a blog or article that claims to have vetted the thousands upon thousands of tips to come up with *the* definitive list of project management best practices? And how many times have those lists contained not-so-new advice, or made suggestions that just don’t fit your organization? While there’s nothing wrong with sifting through different project management perspectives, deciding what will really work for your company takes a little more patience and effort, and a little less trying to fit inside someone else’s approach.

Practices, People, and Processes

When a team leader develops best practices, they typically start with approach. The assumption is that, as long as the directions and outlines are in place, whoever steps in to execute will be able to follow the guidelines, apply the available tools and bring a project to completion without too much digression or a ton of unique questions. In fact, automation and centralization of tools allows for better risk management and tracking, but what’s sometimes missing is individual adaptation. You know which company made millions off of the notion that unwavering approach can work for everyone? Ikea. And while many an apartment is lovingly furnished with pieces from the Swedish conglomerate, the one-size-fits-all instructions have caused more frustration-induced headaches than customer service hold music.

The thing is, guidelines don’t mean much if the right person, possessing the appropriate skill set and vision for a project, isn’t following them. Best practices have to start with people — people who can apply organizational approach with flexibility and an understanding of a project’s context. A gifted project manager translates existing parameters into concepts that help maximize resources and realize the full potential of whatever project they’re used for. Because such a vast array of possibilities exist for answering questions and getting things done, cut-and-dry requirements aren’t always the most effective or the most efficient. Selecting the right project manager — and the right project team — is more valuable than even the most mechanized of processes.

The Best of the Best Isn’t Always Best for You

One of the most cited PM best practices is asking the right questions. That’s the kind of catch-all suggestion that can truly be applied to any project situation, and that, when ignored, causes similar kinds of disruption across the board. But the more tip sheets a project manager solicits, the greater the possibility that the natural ambiguity of such lists can negatively impact someone who sticks to them too closely.

Project management exists in literally every occupation — it’s the definition of “project” that changes. Maybe your project is designing a new web layout, or maybe it’s ordering bike parts, baking twelve sheet cakes, or getting your kid to daycare. Even in under the business umbrella, everything from scope to budget to deadlines holds different meaning and importance for individual stakeholders. For project managers, implementing best practices isn’t about fitting their project into predetermined outlines, but instead, stretching and molding good advice around the specific needs of the project so that it can be completed successfully.

Basically, it doesn’t really matter if the approaches a PM chooses are unequivocally the “best,” so long as they consistently bring about positive results.

Making Best Practices Work for Your Project

Once established, versatile project guidelines and a killer team still might be left with a few questions about implementation. According to Cardinal Solutions, actualizing processes comes down to four things:

  • Identifying those approaches, processes and tools that, when applied correctly, always lead to positive outcomes.
  • Building a PM team that has the skills and ability to apply company best practices to actual projects, not in theory but in reality.
  • On-going training that covers best practices and potential risks.
  • Reinforcing training theories and concepts by applying them to real projects.
Want to learn how Mindjet can help your team achieve better project management? Join us for our next webinar: Mindjet Helps Solve Project Management Challenges for Teams, taking place tomorrow, April 30th, at 10:00AM PDT.
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