7 Project Management Best Practices to Skyrocket Your Career

In the increasingly challenging world of projects, project managers find it harder to manage with technological advancement, changing work culture, spread of remotely located talent, and evolving project management practices.

Sticking to basics definitely builds a good foundation required for the project to be managed successfully. But following project management best practices, and keeping an open mind to try out new practices that are getting results will open up opportunities for learning and growth.

project management best practices

In this article we shall see 7 Project Management Best Practices that can help you, as project manager, to get that edge to fuel career growth.

1. Define life cycle and milestones clearly
2. Develop the right Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
3. Develop high-performance teams
4. Increase engagement by the Project Sponsor
5. Identify performance targets
6. Manage risks effectively
7. Increase effectiveness of Project Management Office

Let us explore each of these, and look for few specific action points that one can implement in their own projects.

7 Project Management Best Practices to Skyrocket Your Career >> http://bit.ly/7pmbestpractices Click to Tweet

1. Define life cycle and milestones clearly

PMI’s project management best practices paper calls out that “Organizations need to map and define phases, deliverables, key milestones and sufficiency criteria for each group involved in the project.”

This clarity is so essential because many teams miss this out completely. To the extent that defining life cycles and milestones is now treated as one of the ‘best practices’ – right at the top. Understandably, because this is the foundation upon which the project’s structure is built and the one that has a huge part in project’s success.

CGIAR delivers agriculture research for development. They do this by conducting activities organized in projects and they define best practices for their project teams to follow. It is essential that organizations follow CGIAR practice and define project management life cycles and guidance for identifying milestones for their project teams.

Here are couple of examples from CGIAR’s best practice document which would be good references.

Example 1 – UN Development Program

UNDP defines the following 5 phases for their projects.

  • Justifying
  • Defining
  • Initiating
  • Implementing
  • Closing

Notice the decision (phase-gate) and review points mentioned.

Project life cycle suggested for UN Development Program

Example 2 – The Global Fund

The Global Fund has 6 phases defined for their projects.

  • Ideation and selection
  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring & Controlling
  • Closing

Project lifecycle suggestion for Global Fund projects

They also suggests the documents that are strongly recommended, recommended, and optional to create at each of these stages as defined below –

Global Fund projects – document suggestions

As you can see these are not too different from what PMI defines in PMBOK.

The bottom line is to be very clear about what phases should the project have, and what is expected out of each of these phases for the next phase to be successful. This is one of the tailoring considerations that project manager would do well to focus on right at the beginning of the project.

Also read: 108 amazing project management statistics you can use in your presentation

2. Develop the right Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Project Management Institute (PMI) in it’s Scheduling best practices list suggests that developing the Work Breakdown Structure the right way is the backbone of a good schedule to ensure project success.

Without the right WBS, it observes, the schedule will go offtrack and deliverables suffer, increasing overall project cost.

It identifies 2 best practices of creating WBS –

A. Functional WBS – breaking down into components of work based on functional aspect of business. It could be difficult to ensure proper scheduling logic across the functions though, the paper observes, where the critical path may traverse across the functions making it hard to trace it from beginning to end.


Functional WBS – image courtesy PMI.org

B. Deliverable (Product) WBS – the most often used approach, to base WBS on deliverables. This is easier to trace, manage, and control than functional WBS. This approach is useful where smaller or cohesive team is working on all aspects of deliverables.


Deliverables WBS – image courtesy PMI.org

..and of course a hybrid way of these two together for better clarity in schedule creation and management.

Bottom line – engage enough time and resources to come up with a comprehensive WBS that will help further identify the activities.

3. Develop high-performance teams

Ever wondered how high-performing teams got there? PMSolutions ran a survey and their results were invaluable.

  1. Teams make contribution to larger organizational goals
  2. Team members have appropriate skills, abilities, and knowledge to accomplish their projects
  3. Team members have an understanding of what they are expected to contribute to the team
  4. Team members have a sense of ownership of the project
  5. Team members keep team members informed of the status of the project

Sample these –

  • They have formal process for opting out of the team
  • Team members provide recognition and rewards to each other for effective performance
  • Team members are involved in hiring, training, and disciplining team members
  • All team members understand contemporary project management principles
  • Teams regularly review compliance to their rules

4. Increase engagement by the Project Sponsor

KPMG ran a project management survey to explore current trends in program and project management. It found, among other things, that engagement from project sponsor is a major factor for project success.

Traditionally, it observes that, project sponsor secures project funding and then appears at the victory lap at the end. But an engaged sponsor, with a vested business interest in the project from kickoff to project closing, can make the difference between project success and failure.

His continued engagement ensures executive sponsorship and management buy-in.

The survey found that as much as 85% respondents attributed project success to moderately to extremely effective governance activities, while 48% projects were found missing sponsor’s engagement.

By making an effort to draw clear connection from project to strategy, the report says, Sponsors should provide team members with a sense of purpose that serves as a major motivational tool. It recommends the role of liaison officer to sponsor and communicate with stakeholders how project will integrate into organization’s strategy and goals!

5. Identify performance targets

Performance targets for each of the major technical aspect of management will help move ahead and improve on the whole. These targets help us identify two aspects –

  • what needs to be controlled
  • what needs to be measured

As an example CGIAR poses these questions to the project managers to come up with necessary performance targets across what they call as ‘themes’ –

  • Business caseWhat value would delivering the project bring to the organization?
  • OrganizationHow will the project team’s individual roles and responsibilities be defined in order for them to effectively manage the project?
  • QualityWhat are the quality requirements and measures and how the project will deliver them?
  • PlansWhat are the steps required to develop the plans and techniques that should be used?
  • RiskHow will the project management address the uncertainties in its plans and the project environment?
  • ChangeHow will the project management assess and act on unforeseen issues or requests for change?
    ProgressThe ongoing viability and performance of the plans and how/whether the project should proceed.

Also read: The complete PDU guide you need to get PDUs to renew your PMP certification

6. Manage risks effectively

Sreekumar Menon from Capella University presents his research findings that effective risk management is one of the best practices of project management. Especially, he finds that initiating Risk management plan at the beginning of the project itself is one of the crucial steps a project manager can take.

“Maintaining risk register, issue and risk logs are useful in managing and mitigating risks in effective project management”, Sreekumar asserts.

And he mentions that lack of proper Project Management training for those coming with technical backgrounds itself could be a best practice in reducing project risk.

ProjectSmart that explores trends and developments in project management field identifies that its not always possible to manage all risks because there could be too many and not all risks have the same impact.

Thus it suggests that having a method to identify risk factors, and suggests the following approach –

  • Identify all risks
  • estimate the likelihood of each risk occurring (1 = not likely, 2 = maybe likely, 3 = very likely)
  • Estimate its impact on the project (1 – low, 2 – medium, 3 – high)
  • then multiply the two numbers together to give the risk factor

High risk factors indicate the severest risks. Manage the ten with the highest risk factors. And then constantly review risks and lookout for new ones since they have a habit of occurring at any moment.

7. Increase effectiveness of Project Management Office

The Project Management Office (PMO) is the central authority in an organization that handles, guides, and in some cases manages portfolios, programs, and projects. They manage dependencies, share resources, and thus reduce cost and risk across various portfolio, program, and project initiatives across the organization.

Although one may argue that PMO is not the responsibility of a project manager, it is not uncommon for PMs to be involved in the functioning of the PMO. And as a project manager, PMO responsibilities could be the next career goal, or a step towards that next career goal.

However, it is important to keep PMOs relevant with the changes in the industry. PMOs much constantly strive to increase flexibility and speed of delivery, and thus increase overall efficiency. Gartner has identified best practices of managing PMOs to keep them relevant and effective.

And the following are important from project’s perspective.

  • Report on what the business really cares about
  • Build a framework that shows how the PMO aligns with strategic enterprise objectives
  • Highlight the PMO’s achievements
  • Support technological adaptation in fast-changing industries such as Digital business

A survey report from KPMG found that just 25% of PMOs are very effective in supporting changes in the organization. It found the following reasons to include as PMOs –

  • Improve governance
  • Align and adjust business strategy (including investment prioritization)
  • Enable consistent delivery

Also read: 1o symptoms of project failure that every smart project manager must look for


Project Management best practices mentioned here are not a comprehensive list, but a good reference to start. With these or with a variation of some of these you could be further developing few in your own organization.

Find these overwhelming? Start with just one that you find it easy to implement in your project, and see if it helps. It would also be a good idea with work with other project managers in your organization to further develop project management best practices.

And finally, if you have a best practice or two that can help project managers share away in the comments below!

Write articles like these with my help and claim PDUs for your PMP recertification!

[SneakyAffiliate sneakyaffiliateurl=”https%3A//www.pmexamsmartnotes.com/pmprecast-myposts” sneakyaffiliatecookiexpdays=”1″ sneakyaffiliatesplash=”Are%20you%20sure%20you%20want%20to%20leave%20before%20you%20checkout%20special%20PM%20PrepCast%20sale%20by%20Cornelius%3F”] [/SneakyAffiliate]

like the post

<-- Liked this post? Help your friends by sharing this using social network buttons. Thanks for being awesome!

OSP sidebar

PMP Study Books

Help Run This Blog At No Cost To You.. Use this box to search and purchase your stuff on Amazon. Thanks!

{ 0 comments… add one }