10 examples of project management principles for beginners

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're an aspiring project manager, it's important that you learn how to lead a team towards project completion. To accomplish this, you can review and start using different principles that many successful project managers utilise. Understanding these principles of project management helps you maximise how you use your leadership, communication and organisational skills. In this article, we explain what project management principles are and list 10 principles you can follow to develop and lead successful projects.

What are project management principles?

Project management principles are universal concepts and rules that help you deliver successful projects. While every project you work on may be different, you can consider applying these fundamental principles to most, if not all, of them. These concepts and ideas cover all aspects of the project management life cycle, from establishing the project to analysing it after completion. You may find that it makes sense to adjust some of these concepts to adapt them to your project's context, but reviewing them gives you a general idea of what path you can take to lead and deliver projects successfully.

Related: How to write a project manager CV (plus essential skills)

10 project management principles

Developing relevant skills and gaining knowledge for a successful career in project management takes a lot of time and effort. Knowing where to start and understanding the principles of the field is essential to set realistic goals for yourself. Here are 10 principles that you can review if you've decided to pursue a career in project management:

1. Define the project's structure

Giving your projects a formalised structure makes it easier to control and manage them. A project's structure is an outline that highlights its key elements and allows you to plan its details strategically. Here are some basic elements of an effective project structure:

  • Project charter: A project charter is a short document that describes the entire project you're working on, including its objectives and how you plan to deliver them. It's an essential tool in making sure your project is successful, as it's a document that you'd use throughout the whole duration of a project.

  • Project plan: A project plan is a detailed document, or a series of documents, that defines the execution and control stages of a project. It features many important project details and resources, including a work breakdown structure, a project schedule and a risk analysis.

  • Budget: A project budget is a tool that you can use to estimate the total costs of a project, including how much the company pays each team member, supplier or manufacturer. It's important that you keep this element flexible, as a client may request budget changes throughout the project.

  • Schedule: A project schedule is a list of all tasks, milestones and deadlines that you've planned within a project. You may present it as a timeline or a calendar.

  • Milestones: Project milestones are tasks of zero duration that mark important accomplishments within a project. For example, budget reviews or signing contracts.

2. Establish project goals

Establishing project goals is a critical step that allows you to determine the ideal outcome of each task and the entire project. Before focusing on goals, it's important that the stakeholders or clients approve of the final requirements and approval criteria. Using measurable figures for setting project goals makes it easier to assess progress and a project team's success. For example, rather than setting the goal of your new marketing campaign to 'create a new video advertising campaign', you could phrase it as 'create a new video advertising campaign that draws 20,000 views online'.

Related: How to set and discuss long-term career goals (with examples)

3. Identify the right tools

Depending on your project's scope or duration, you may use different tools to ensure the successful completion of the project. This step typically involves choosing project management and communication software. To determine which tools may be beneficial, consider analysing similar projects and determine what tools or software they used. It's also helpful to discuss this with your team, as they may have some valuable ideas or suggestions. By determining the right tools at the beginning, you make performing tasks simpler for your project team and can easily measure their progress to make sure everyone's on track with their assignments.

4. Assign roles and responsibilities

This principle allows you to communicate each team member's role to them and clearly explain their responsibilities. During this step, it's critical that you share what expectations you and the employer have for this project, as it allows you to set standards within the team. This way, everyone knows what to do and when to do it. For example, if you're developing a software project, you may assign the creation of a new web feature to one team member and tell them when to deliver it so that the next person can integrate the feature on a website.

When determining roles and responsibilities, you can follow the RACI chart, which stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Involved. By using this, you can assign each team member a letter that best describes their involvement in the project or a particular task. It also measures their level of influence and highlights their role within the company.

Related: Essential business roles and their responsibilities

5. Hold teams accountable

By holding people accountable, you make sure that they do the work that's assigned to them. It's also important that you communicate to all team members that you expect them to hold themselves accountable, as it may help them feel more responsible for their actions and notice that how well they perform impacts the project's overall success. A great way to improve accountability is to reach out regularly to each person who's involved in the project to assess their progress and ask if they have any suggestions and comments.

Related: The difference between responsibility vs accountability at work

6. Quickly address issues and questions

This principle allows you to use your conflict resolution and communication skills to avoid miscommunication and quickly identify any issues that may arise during a project. After communicating roles and responsibilities to the team, you may schedule a group meeting to answer any questions that they have. This eliminates confusion and helps you make sure everyone understands the main objectives and each individual step. If you find that the team has many questions, you may create a shared document with answers to common questions that you'd distribute to everyone before starting the project.

7. Monitor progress

Regularly monitoring everyone's progress allows you to make sure everything's going as planned and that you're on schedule. One effective way of monitoring and measuring progress is creating milestones that team members can highlight when a project reaches a certain stage. You can also request that they share regular updates of their work with you or conduct progress meetings in which everyone shares their progress with the rest of the team.

Sometimes, you may find that the team is late on a scheduled deadline. Although it's not an ideal situation, you can manage it by extending some deadlines or providing team members with additional resources. It may be useful to analyse how the team performs in the first few weeks and adjust the timeline accordingly.

8. Adjust priorities

Throughout the course of a project, clients or stakeholders may share new requests or set budget restrictions. To react to such changes, you can consider adjusting priorities, as this allows you to remain flexible, maximise the resources that you have and increase your team's potential. This way, whenever a substantial change happens, you can quickly integrate it into the plan and schedule while making sure you can still accomplish the key project objectives.

Related: Interview question: 'how do you prioritise your work?'

9. Review the project before completion

Reviewing the project, most importantly the schedule and plan, allows you to make sure that the team delivered all work assigned to them. During this step, you can review the initial list of goals and check if you successfully completed each one of them. Another important part of finalising a project is submitting all relevant documentation to senior management before delivering it to the client.

10. Analyse your team's success

Upon successful completion of a project, consider spending some time analysing it. Pay attention to both your accomplishments and aspects that failed. This way, you can learn from mistakes and prevent them from happening again in the future. It's also a good idea to schedule a final team meeting, where you'd share client feedback and reward team members for their hard work.

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