9 Project Management Commandments to live by

I'm coaching a very successful software company in Auckland on the finer points of Project Management.  The 9 commandments that follow represent an accumulation of wisdom that has served me well over the years.  Please feel free to share your thoughts on the matter.
  1. Begin with the end in mind
    • Plan the flight... then fly the plan
    • Pause for agreement and clarity before implementing
    • Stay wedded to the outcome, not the path for getting there
    • The worst time to define success is after it’s over
  2. Manage by result, not activity
    • An active team is not necessarily a productive team
    • Focus on Throughput
    • Limit Work in Progress
    • Learn to use teams to achieve results... not individuals.
  3. Compromise on scope not quality
    • Define ‘quality’ upfront (e.g. verification criteria)
    • Understand technical debt
    • Learn to recognize an ‘interest’ payment from a ‘capital’ payment. (i.e. treat causes as well as effects)
  4. Escalate early and often (e.g. 2X2X2 Escalation)
    • 2 minutes to explain the issue
    • 2 minutes to describe options
    • 2 minutes to make a decision on what to do next
  5. Continuous Course Correction
    • Invest in short regular planning exercises.
    • The act of planning is more valuable than the plan!
    • Learn to surface impediments/blockers regularly
    • Planning exercises are for planning the work not doing the work!
  6. Serve your team
    • Enable your teams with clear decisions, clear priorities and lot’s of encouragement
    • Double the rate of failure!
    • Trust your experts
  7. Manage the context
    • Maintain situational awareness outside of the team
    • Make yourself aware of ALL the stakeholders
    • Create an atmosphere that celebrates failure as a learning experience
    • Communicate little bits of news often!
    • Credibility is critical to building trust
    • Do What You Said You Would Do When You Said You Would Do It .
  9. Retire risk early
    • Tiger cubs are easier to deal with than tigers!
    • Prioritize first... sequence last.


  1. Hello Colt,

    I really like this and I am very much sharing this with my team. (they'll love it)

    Just a couple of questions:

    what do you mean by 'Limit Work in Progress'?

    help me understand technical debt!

    x A

  2. Thanks Anita...

    Have a listen to this podcast to get an idea of how to use WIP limits to improve throughput: http://skillsmatter.com/event/agile-scrum/the-flow-experiment/

    Henrik Kniberg has also done a great job of demystifying this powerful technique: http://www.crisp.se/henrik.kniberg/Kanban-vs-Scrum.pdf

    I use Kanban for the day to day (non-project) operations and limiting the amount of work actually committed to by the team helps to ensure things mover through quickly and you can more easily identify constraints.

    Hope this helps


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