We all seem to have our own set of “durable” project management rules. We rely on them again and again to help guide us to a successful project outcome, regardless of the type of project, technology or environment.
Years ago, I read Kelly’s 14 Rules & Practices, which to me made sense for any project.
Authored by Kelly Johnson, the founder of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works® for Advanced Development Projects, the rules helped teams on pioneering aircraft projects produce innovative deliverables under budget and on schedule.
I plucked three from this list and adapted them to apply to my project management career:
1. The number of people connected to the project must be aggressively restricted. For me, it has been quite common to have people seek a connection to a project, especially if it has had a high degree of executive visibility. Project managers who invest in aggressive stakeholder management — that is, blocking non-essential roles — have clearer communication in their projects and better-defined roles, which also helps new team members know their role relative to others on the team.
2. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly. I have been on some projects where the effort put into status reporting almost exceeded the effort put into project activities. Too much in the way of project reporting is just as dangerous as too little. Based on the type of project, the most successful project managers focus on a small number of essential metrics (schedule, budget, milestone, deliverable variances, etc.) that are easily understood by both the project team and the stakeholders.
3. There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed, but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program. It is typical for project managers to host meetings to review prior project spend as future spend forecast. The crucial term in this rule is “what has been committed” to the project, both in terms of funding and resources. Many times, project managers fail to include funding and project resource commitments during a cost review.
Even though I read them long ago, Johnson’s rules still resonate today. This October marks the 70th anniversary of the 14 Rules & Practices. Talk about durability!
What are your “durable” project management rules?
Skunk Works and the 14 Rules & Practices references courtesy of Lockheed Martin.