Project Management Guidelines (Part 2) -Communication and Time as the Most Important Elements of the Project

Annalena Simonis, Thursday 10 June 2021 | Reading time: 6 min.

In our second article in the blog series Project Management Guidelines, we present four additional laws from clever minds in business, science and the military that you can apply to many situations in your day-to-day project work. Read more:

As the field of project management becomes more complex and our tasks more demanding, we may lose sight of basic principles. By following these 8 simple guiding principles, it is possible to improve project performance, provide more value to the organization, and hopefully make the project manager's job a little easier. Having introduced you to the laws of Lakein, Murphy, Constantines and Augustines in the last blog post in this series, here are four more guiding principles for your everyday project work.


5. Fitzgerald's Law: "There are two states to every large project: too early to detect and too late to stop."

Ernest Fitzgerald, an engineer, manager and former U.S. Air Force employee, is known for his whistleblower work exposing waste of resources in military contract management. One consequence of his work is the realization that projects have a momentum of their own. Once started, they are increasingly difficult to stop. His principle is therefore: no project without control. A common method for measuring project performance is earned value management. By establishing a project baseline and properly collecting and measuring project data, an earned value analysis can be executed. It compares the actual state of the project with the planned state. Through this method, corrective action can be taken before it is too late. Once the project has gone wrong, it should be terminated in time. There is often still the assumption that a canceled project is a failed project. In fact, a planned project cancellation can save a lot of money. Instead of putting more money into project that is doomed to fail, a good project manager should recognize the situation early and act accordingly. A project that is not working zum well should never be considered "too late to cancel."


6. Parkinson's Law: "Work expands to fill available time."

C. Northcote Parkinson was a teacher and writer who caught the public's attention in the mid-1950s with his satirical writings about government and business. His law, which originally stated, "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion," still has far-reaching implications for projects today. Parkinson believed that if you give a person an hour to complete a task, it will take them an hour; if you give them a day, it will take them a day. The same person will theoretically deliver in the shortest amount of time if they have the least amount of time. For our project management, this means that the only way we can hope to overcome this aspect of human nature is to impose tight but realistic deadlines on each element of the project. In many projects, software is used to create a Gantt chart, and the project begins with a poor idea of the actual sequence of activities. However, since we lack some information at the beginning, each activity must be treated as if it was critical, resulting in a high level of wasted effort. According to Parkinson's Law, most people will start each assigned activity on its latest start date, using up all time buffers and making all paths critical. In our blog post "Parkinson's Law: Why we Waste so Much Time and How to Improve Time Management" you can read three useful InLoox tips on how to better manage time according to Parkinson's law with our PM software.


7. Kinser's Law: "About the time you're done with something, you know enough to get started with it."

James C. Kinser was an engineer, efficiency expert, and all-rounder. Raised in the Southern Appalachian tradition of storytelling, he knew that the best way to teach something was to tell a story. That’s why, he used to say, "If you don't write it down, you won't remember it when you need it." With his guiding principle, he names the importance of "prototyping" and argues that no matter what you start, you can't get it right at the first time. Imagine you want to build three wooden shelves yourself. Instead of cutting all the material right away and finishing all the shelves at the same time, you build one of the shelves first, then figure out what you did wrong so you could do better on the others. By using this method, you will take less time and have a better result in the end. Kinser believes that you can't consider a project complete if you haven't learned from it. For this reason, be sure to take the time for a lessons learned meeting after each project completion. The project manager can then summarize all the lessons learned in a project completion report, which can be used as a planning checklist for the next project.


8 Graham's Law: "If they know nothing about what you do, they suspect you do nothing."

Robert J. Graham is a professor, consultant and author of many books in the field of project management with a focus on people and effective communication. It is common knowledge that about 90% of a project manager's time is spent on communication, and yet this is one of the simplest and also most underestimated aspects of a common project plan. In most cases, the communication management plan should be the first project management element created after the project charter, -This is important as it governs the interaction with all project stakeholders for planning and the entire project lifecycle. Another weak point in the project, can be too high expectations of the stakeholders. These often lead to the assumption that the project performance is insufficient or that the project will fail. In most cases, however, the problem is not with the project, but with the unrealistic expectations of the stakeholders themselves. Again, an open communication strategy is needed to adjust expectations. Another corollary to Graham's Law is, "If someone tells you too much about what they're doing, they may actually be doing nothing." So be mindful of how much, when, and what you communicate. Less is sometimes more when the information is delivered in a targeted way.


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