By Giampaolo Marucci – PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Development Team member
Activities executed inside a project are about project management: planning, estimating, measuring, realizing, communicating, integrating, coaching, motivating, tailoring, etc. These activities are guided by the principles in The Standard for Project Management. Principles can provide a cultural framework of behaviors that lead to a common mindset useful for performing the work inside the context of the project.
Principles guide behavior within the Project Performance Domains of the seventh edition of the PMBOK® Guide. Performance domains describe the collection of activities or functions that influence project performance. They provide guidance for decision making with a focus on enabling desired project outcomes. Together, the principles and performance domains serve all of the people involved in project activities.
The project team, one of the critical stakeholder groups in a project, executes the work of the project tailoring the development approach and the selection of models and methods.
In the past, it has been common thinking that project management knowledge needed to be owned by project management practitioners. But who is a project management practitioner inside a project? We could say that a project management practitioner is anyone who executes some project management activity and who has some responsibility for some result of the project. From this point of view, any team member of a project performs some portion of the project management activities.
The type of project management activities, and the level of details of those activities, that any team member can do depends on several factors, such as the framework of project management practices selected; the organization’s policies, requirements, and processes; or regulatory requirements. For example:
- In an Agile Scrum project, a development team has the responsibility to plan the tasks to execute during the next iteration (Sprint), selecting work items from the product backlog where the product owner has prioritized the User Stories during the Sprint Planning event. The team estimates the effort to implement the User Story. Decide what story components can be included in the work of the Sprint and commit to achieving the Sprint Goal. Therefore, the development team members have a high degree of project management responsibility.
- For a high performing project team that has been stabilized over time, is composed of the same members who have done several projects together, and are experienced and cross-functional, management can decide to let them self-organize. Further, the team can be empowered with a lot of autonomy and responsibility in the execution of the project management activities, such as deciding and implementing the most appropriate workflow or processes to get to the expected project outcome.
- In a traditional, functional organization composed of different siloes of specialized competencies, projects are started only if needed. People working inside the functions are temporarily allocated to the project. The time of these people is contested by the line managers and the project facilitators. People on the project team have to manage the conflicting requests coming from the different management lines and project facilitators, and they have to manage such conflicts while doing project management activities they often are not aware of.
- In some organizations, the roles of the people are defined in detail and documented as part of or in addition to the organizational chart. In such documentation project management activities might be assigned to specialized roles like project manager, team leader, project coordinator, etc. In such cases, a project manager would be assigned to do most of the project management activities as part of his or her responsibility.
Therefore, project management activities can be executed by different people in different organizational roles, including members of the project team.
In projects where the project team can be much more self-organized and empowered, people in the project team need to know what models, methods, processes, and practices can be considered, to which project performance domain they are related, and how the team can be effective in delivering project outputs that enable realization of intended outcomes. On the other hand, in a project where the project team needs to be guided in the details of the work, the project team members need to know why they are following the indicated models, methods, practices, and processes, and have a common vision upon which to tailor the work across all of the performance domains. In all of this, the principles of project management enable a common mindset that guides behavior and decisions.
For these reasons, independent of role titles, organizational structure, or a particular project development approach, the project management principles serve all people in a project as a foundation upon which the work of the project proceeds. The Project Performance Domains serve all people in a project as a structured system for areas of focus for the work of the project, decisions, and actions guided by the overarching principles. So, it is important that the members of the project team are coached or trained on the Project Management Principles and Project Performance Domains. I believe these Principles and Performance Domains can serve as the foundation for all members of the project team and can lead to improved project outcomes.