The pillars of project management

To be good at project man­age­ment we’ve got­ta lean on the PM pillars.

You know the iron tri­an­gle” the­o­ry of PM — the one that states that the tri­fec­ta of scope, time, and cost has the pow­er to car­ry any project? It’s a fine idea, but to tru­ly rein­force your PM fortress, you’re going to need mul­ti­ple pil­lars that account for every nook and cranny. 

Loud­er Than Ten’s 6 pil­lars of project man­age­ment rep­re­sent the core beliefs that guide our projects and keep our­selves and our teams healthy. It’s our tried and true phi­los­o­phy for keep­ing projects afloat — no warm and fuzzies here, just truth.

I We set the pace and tone of our projects

  • We set clear expectations for process and behaviour through communication
  • We set clear responsibilities and roles
  • We outline clear consequences to actions
  • We create a calm environment and control the chaos for our team; filter the intensity
  • We are champions: we create a power dynamic as soon as we engage; our job is to maintain confidence, excitement, and clarity on behalf of the team and project
  • We create safety around all human interactions

II Boundaries are good

  • Folks like boundaries; it allows them to know what’s okay/what’s not
  • People will take smarter/better risks when they know their project boundaries
  • Being clear and upfront about expectations allows us freedom to play/explore
  • Stakeholders who understand boundaries will respect our team and process
  • Saying no allows them to let go of less important things and focus on important ones
  • We refine priorities, goals, and feature sets together (team/clients)
  • We manage up to protect the interests of our team and project

III People only drive when they think we can’t

  • Decision-makers will take the reins if we don’t pick them up
  • It’s tough to pull them back again; we’ll have dips in productivity/happiness
  • We need to ask the obvious or silly questions for clarity
  • Decision-makers are often protecting themselves, trying to report to a senior manager (acting out of fear)
  • We have empathy for them and the workload they have to manage

IV Our calendar is sacred

  • We don’t let anyone book our time without our permission
  • We have the right to refuse a meeting or call
  • If someone wastes our time/no shows during scheduled time, we politely hang up/leave after 10 minutes and let them know we needed to move on; if they’d like to coordinate we’ll look at our available schedule and get back to them
  • We don’t book meetings at lunch/after work, nor too early in the morning. But also: we get them out of the way so people can focus on productive work (e.g., 9:30 or 10 am)
  • We build in meeting free days as much as possible; people need 3–4 hours of uninterrupted time for optimal productivity

V Our stakeholders need us to win

  • Project decision-makers need us to win so the project can be a success
  • This means we need to own the project and have a say in its direction, outcomes, and nuances
  • Decision-makers need us to run the process effectively for their own interest, so if they make this more difficult we can tell them it’s a barrier to a successful launch
  • If we position with confidence and ask for stakeholder/team help to keep things on track, they’ll work hard with us, not against us
  • We make it safe to be vulnerable so we don’t have to fake our confidence

VI We can learn the scripts

  • We’re not born knowing what to say to stakeholders or how to handle difficult conversations, but we can learn scripts that automate that self-doubt/confusion
  • We have the right to ask for time to make competent decisions. We revert to our team and tell the person that we’d like to explore the answer with the team first
  • We have the right not to know the answer. We don’t rush to give one that is not well thought out. We rely on our team for help or get more information
  • We have the right to say “No, and here’s why…”
  • We focus on decision-makers’ business goals throughout the project to reinforce our approach and direction

Related resources

Our project management manifesto

What it means to be a resilient digital project lead

Project benchmarking 101

Projects, process, and people health

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