There are no “secrets” to project management success. It’s a combination of education in PM best practices (the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK), communication skills, and staying confident, focused and cool under fire. Most successful Project Managers follow these five steps:
Step 1: Know Your Outcomes
In the Project Charter topic, I mentioned the first and most important step in your project is to properly define the business and project outcomes. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know you have arrived? This is as true for personal projects and goals as it is for business projects.
Step 2: Have a Plan and Take Action
You can speak passionately about your desired outcomes but unless you do something about it they are as worthless as having no outcomes at all. Taking action starts with good planning and the topics on the “Project Management Plan” and the “Project Plan” are excellent places to start. Once you have a plan, you can begin execution.
Step 3: Collect Relevant Information Regarding Progress
It is a rare project that goes exactly according to plan. You need to regularly evaluate whether your outcomes are still achievable and the level of progress towards achieving those outcomes. Having this information leads to the next step …
Step 4: Be Flexible and Change Plans as needed
If your project is not proceeding according to the plan, be prepared to change the plan and do whatever it takes to achieve your desired outcomes. This could mean some combination of the following: changing the order of activities, reassigning resources, changing the scope, crashing the schedule, etc.
The Marines have a motto: “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome”. This is also a good motto for Project Managers.
Step 5: Look and Feel Confident
Your project team will take its cue from you. If you are expressing doubts, look worried and anxious, or show uncertainty, your team will start to feel the same. Using PM best practices and following Steps 1 thru 4 in this post will allow you to proceed with confidence.
Note: Much more detail on successful Project Management can be found in my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World”, available at