Published here July 2023


Musings Index

Abstract: In Search of Project Management Principles
By authors Nigel Blampied, Robert Buttrick, George Jucan, Crispin Piney, Chris Stevens, David Violette, and R. Max Wideman

Here follows a brief abstract of the above original paper:[1]

We believe that project management practices are rooted in principles that justify and guide why we have to do what we do, to increase the likelihood of our projects being successful. Several credible organizations have published standards and/or similar documents that have identified 'project management principles.' However, there are significant differences between these various sets of principles as presented in different publications.

The original paper includes a conceptual analysis of those principles, and seeks answers to the basic question: Is there a group of universal principles that apply to all projects, or are groups of principles fluid such that they apply according to the project situation? In this paper, we define criteria to establish a necessary and sufficient set of principles for effective project management engagement generally.

Our analysis focuses on discerning commonalities of form and substance of the identified principles. For example:

  1. Can any approach that bases project management standards on a set of principles provide the necessary pragmatic flexibility to enhance the success of various project management delivery frameworks?
  2. Can a list of principles, from the reviewed publications, provide a coherent set of rules and guidelines for the enhancement of project management practice?
  3. Are there any other considerations that should be taken into account in this analysis?

In this paper the term "principle" is examined, so that it unambiguously guides their development specifically to project management. The term "principle" is also precisely defined, and used to specify a set of criteria by which principles can be characterized as valid. The paper presents the full list of principles that were identified in the research and highlights those that fit these criteria.

The set of principles as a whole is reviewed for completeness i.e., "necessary and sufficient" with respect to a number of published standards (including ISO 21502, ISO 21503 and ANSI/PMI 99 001 2021). This is to determine if there are actions or practices in these publications that are not covered by the principles identified in the study. The set is also reviewed for coherence to ensure that there is no duplication or internal contradictions.

Where shortcomings are identified, changes or additions are proposed to the principles. The paper consequently provides details of a resulting complete and coherent set of project management principles.

This analysis has shown that it is possible to extract a valid set of principles for project management. This resulting set is provided and its potential contribution to enhancing the practice of project management is discussed. This provides a basis for the future work of building a broad consensus among project management experts about which principles are truly valid for project management generally.

1. Full paper available at:
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