Real World Project Management Fundamentals

Learning how to manage projects from a book is far different from managing projects in the real world. Jennifer Bridges, PMP, explains how to balance both approaches in this short video.

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!


In Review: Real World Project Management Fundamentals

There’s by-the-book and then there’s real-world, on-the-job experience, as Jennifer said. The book is easy, right? Because you can open that book and read it. Real life, however, is messier, often doesn’t follow the rules and requires a more spontaneous and improvisational approach.

The difference between the two approaches is that the by-the-book people tend to be more academic, worried about checking off boxes, get stuck on non-crucial tasks and can often disrupt the team and the project. The real-world project managers are able to extend beyond the book-learning, draw on a combination of instinct and an ability to learn quickly, and emerge as project leaders. Sometimes, though, processes suffer.

Since both approaches have merit, Jennifer recommends remembering the fundamentals, essential project goals for anyone leading a project today:

  • Assign project manager early
  • Know your stakeholders and your project
  • Establish your change control board
  • Baseline your scope, schedule, budget, quality and specs
  • Question estimates
  • Plan for risks
  • Manage change
  • Custom dashboards and reports
  • Plan your work, work your plan and be willing to change it along the way
  • Set your team up for success

Pro-Tip: Take a page from the new Project Management Institute’s guidelines for project management certification or even their professional development unit requirements, which have changed significantly. Whereas traditionally, project managers needed core skills in technical aspects of managing projects (one could say, By the Book!), today there are new requirements in a broadened skill set in leadership and business strategy.

Take it further: Get our exclusive guide to real world project management.

Thanks for watching!

Video Transcription

Today, we’re talking about real-world project management fundamentals. I’m sure we’ve all encountered those by-the-book project managers and by-the-book project management. But what does that look like? It usually could be the person that says, “Wait, we missed step number 42,” and they’re like, “What?” Sometimes it’s overkill.

What happens is project processes could be created by non-project managers. People could be worried more about checking off things in a check box and things could be getting stuck on non-critical steps. What happens is the team gets disgruntled and the project gets stuck.

And then also in real-world project management, which pretty much affects us all, where things are moving so fast and things are changing all along the way. So what happens is the project manager’s like, “We don’t have time for that, we just have to keep going.” So what does this look like?

Sometimes project processes make it over or bypassed by mavericks. And decisions could be made by non-decision makers or missing critical steps. Well, almost the same thing can occur. The team can get disgruntled and the project can become derailed. So no matter what we’re talking about in real-world project managers, project managers in practice, no matter what size, here are some key fundamentals that we need to remember.

First of all, we need to assign a project manager early so we can start managing, tracking things before things start getting ahead. Then you need to know your stakeholders and your project. If you know your stakeholders and your project better than anyone, then you can anticipate and you can understand the priorities as things change quickly. You need to establish your change control board early so as things do change, those key decision makers are the ones making the decisions.

Baseline your scope, schedule, budget and quality specifications early and if you need to re-baseline. It can really make the difference between a failed and successful project. You also need to question estimates, especially when things are moving fast and changing quickly, people can tend to guess and estimate. So you need to understand how were they derived. You also need to plan for risk. Risk do happen on just about any project. They can be of all sizes. So it’s important to identify them and plan ahead. And then manage the change all along the way.

Customize dashboards and reports. It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words and helps people. So also, plan your work, work the plan and change it along the way. That’s where some people fail to change things. And so when things are actually changing on the project, they try to manage by an old outdated plan. It gets everyone dazed and confused.also set your team up for success. Give them the training. Give them the documents. Give them the inputs, the things that they need to get their project work done. And the final tip is to communicate, communicate, communicate and modify your processes to actually facilitate your project.

So if you need a tool that can help you manage your real-world projects, then sign up for our software now at

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