Are Best Practices Really Possible?

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By Mario Trentim


A project is a planned and coordinated piece of work that requires considerable effort to deliver a specific result.

According to PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), a project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique result. And it is performed by people, constrained by limited resources, planned, executed and controlled.

Project management is an interdisciplinary approach to balance the conflicting interests and constraints of a project: well done (scope), fast (time) and cheap (cost).

Although there are other important aspects of managing a project that will be covered in subsequent posts here, the triple constraint (scope, time and cost) implies that a project, large or small, addresses at least the following areas:

  • Specific outcomes and results: requirements and deliverables (scope);
  • Definite tasks, start and end dates: schedule (time);
  • Established resources: people, materials and budget (cost)

Project managers perform four primary management functions:

1. Planning: This encompasses project initiation and detailed planning, involving processes to identify needs and requirements, define deliverables and tasks, estimate resources and develop the project management plan.

2. Organizing: This function prepares for execution, it is a supporting and administrative function to provide project structure and governance. Most of the time, organizing involves staffing and procurement, but other preparation activities might be included here.

3. Directing: This is the management function of getting the work done, managing execution according to the plan. It encompasses stakeholder engagement, team management and communications management.

4. Controlling: This function takes care of project performance monitoring, preventive and corrective actions and the integrated change control.

These functions might be performed in parallel and should not be understood as sequential.

Outside of these functions, project managers should also focus on managerial aspects of the project, including leadership. Although it is desirable that the project manager possess some knowledge in general business management, business analysis and the technical aspects of the project, they are usually supported by other experts in a number of project management related disciplines including systems engineering, requirements engineering and specialist engineering disciplines, quality assurance, integrated logistic support and more depending on the project and industry.

But, are these best practices really universal given all these factors? Please leave your comments below. We’ll be looking further into this question in subsequent posts.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: March 27, 2018 03:36 PM | Permalink

Comments (18)

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Thanks for the article, Mario. Best practices are like templates; there to simplify, but not to limit. Best practices are meant to provide a base, allowing for adaptation and modification as needed. Build guardrails not tracks.

Mario, good post. Best Practices depends highly on the people who execute so best practices can deliver best results when they are apply effiectively and efficiently.

Thanks Mario. As long as we keep revisiting best practices, knowing that the market tends to move on and create new best practices, then we should be fine.

Best practices are definitely a source of help but we need to be careful about putting them in the context of various situations. For example, I've had some projects with best practices related to documentation but the architecture and approach didn't lend themselves to the same structure. It was a good jumping off point, but we definitely had to tailor.

Best practices holds good till the time the process or the the outcomes remains the same. With the fluid market trends it is important to keep best practices updated or tweaked as per the demand of process

Good article Mario.

Best practices work out well when the project manager determines the best practice to use on a team based on their capabilities.

Good Post Mario. Putting in context your post, I think that the best practices depend of the Project Management culture of the company where you are deveploping as project manager, even also the project management culture of your client. For example in some situations in the company where you are working as project manager there isn't PMO, even your boss it isn't PMP and he doesn't know about what is PMI, same situation with the client, then in this context is hard apply all the project management best practices.

Good article, Mario. I think the best practices is like a base for the project manager to work on.

Good article, thanks for sharing.

Best practices are possible if supported by management and if they are regularly updated, else they will become past practices. A Quality Champion gets it done.

I agree completely with Andrew Craig.
I would like to add this - I believe the key is in being aware of the "appropriate" best practice(s) to leverage for each project's specific context. Either the PM should have this insight already, or the Organization should have access to some repository that can guide the PM to the "right" best practices.In the absence of these 2 enablers, the PM would end up developing & deploying his/ her own approach to address a given problem, and repeat mistakes or take longer paths to achieve the end objectives.

Useful points thanks. I like to view this using the Cynefin Framework; “Simple” domains have Best Practices, “Complicated” domains have Good Practices; I suspect Projects count as Complicated (or even Complex, the next stage in the model!)

It was a good article.Thanks
I think the basis of best practice are explained in the PMBOK standard but it needs to be tailored for each project as required considering the situation of that project. It may include risks ,constraints,stakeholders,objectives,etc. We can't say that best practice for a project is unique for all over the world or even in a country it is not similar for different type of projects and technologies.

Thanks for the good article Mario..In my opinion best practices are like guiding principles, we can pick what best suits the need of the hour as we proceed with the project

Thank you for this interesting vision!

Best practices need to be tailored to each specific project. They are more likened to Tools in a toolbox than hard and fast procedures that need to be followed for every project that is conducted. Great thoughts... Thanks for sharing

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