Table of Contents, Career Coach Resources Page Previous Section, Career Coach Next Section, Career Coach

Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Project Management—The Top Ten Principles

Crisis is another name for opportunities.

Murphy's Law postulates that if anything can go wrong, it probably will. It is the rare project that finishes on time and within budget. But with proper planning, committed people, well-defined goals, and strong sponsorship, you have a good chance for success. Managing the middle and end of your project is particularly important.

  1. Before your project begins, get organized and be clear about what you are getting into.

    • Get a clear mandate and make sure it is well documented, especially if the project is large. The mandate should

      • be clear and unambiguous;

      • define the parameters of the project;

      • indicate whether you are to research, recommend, or implement change.

    • Be sure that the parameters of the project make clear:

      • The geographical scope. Will the project cover a part or all of your organization, one city, a province, or the whole country?

      • Which departments will be involved, and how. Who will participate and who will be affected? What responsibilities will each have to the project?

      • Your authority. What powers do the team and its members have? What are their spending limits?

      • Which levels of the organization will be affected.

      • Which products or services are included in the project.

      • Which systems or processes are included.

    • Ensure that your committee or team represents every part of the organization that will be affected by the project. Team members should have

      • time available to devote to the project;

      • skill and experience in working in groups;

      • knowledge of the subject;

      • an assortment of viewpoints.

    • Plan carefully. Document the steps to be taken, when they will occur, who will carry them out, and how they will be done. Get your sponsor to endorse the plan.

  2. Start the project well. At the first meeting:

    • Welcome the attendees.

    • Explain the mandate and goals of the project, review the parameters, and ask for comments and further explanations.

    • Together with your teammates, establish ground rules for behaviour. Some examples:

      • We agree to finish our work on time.

      • We agree to be on time for meetings.

      • We agree to be honest with each other.

      • We will respect the ideas and opinions of our teammates.

      • We will give the team leader advance notice if we cannot complete a task on time.

    • Present your plan, specifying tasks, target dates, and responsibilities. If everyone cannot agree to the plan, work with the team to modify it until they do. For large or complex projects, it is best to develop the plan from the beginning as a team. This will result in more commitment to goals from team members and a better plan.

    • Anticipate obstacles that could prevent the plan from being completed on time and within budget. List them in order of importance and get team input on how to remove or avoid roadblocks. If necessary, get volunteers to deal with these items by a defined date (not ASAP).

    • Remind team members of the benefits they will receive, however intangible, from successful completion of the project.

  3. Keep the process on track:

    • Monitor progress, especially of tasks that are critical to the success of the project.

    • As project manager, avoid doing any of the work yourself. Leave the technical aspects to team members — if they are falling behind, replace them or get extra help. Don't get caught up in details; you will lose sight of the big picture.

    • Give frequent progress reports; they are essential for team morale. Let all team members know about successes so they will feel pride in their achievements.

    • Give recognition to team members who outperform expectations, and let their bosses know about their contributions to the project.

    • Stay within your parameters as defined at the outset of the project. If you feel the need to go beyond the parameters, negotiate a change in them first.

    • Stay focused on your goal. If your project has more than one goal, make sure everyone on the team knows which are the most important.

    • Set a standard of professional behaviour for the project. Be a role model by

      • staying out of politics, especially in other departments;

      • focusing on problems, not people;

      • refusing to criticize people who are not team members;

      • running top-quality meetings that begin and end on time, include all team members, and cover an agenda that you have distributed beforehand.


  1. Put in ten times as much effort as you think it should take (ten inputs for every one output).

  2. Bring in three partners, advisers, friends, or colleagues, and let them advise and support you.

  3. Package the project so that it adds extraordinary value to the consumer, not just the customer.

  4. Take consistent but learned action every day or week. Press forward, regardless.

  5. Motivate yourself and others by creating a visual display showing measurable progress.

  6. Bring in customers/users and alpha testers at the very beginning and learn from them.

  7. Link the project to your vision. When both are connected, the project gets a big lift.

  8. Maintain a healthy reserve: twice as much capital/expenses/time as estimated.

  9. Force the project to prove itself, in some way, during each stage of its development.

  10. Once you've done all of the above, then trust your gut.

Table of Contents, Career Coach Resources Page Previous Section, Career Coach Next Section, Career Coach