Nearly Universal Principles of Projects

Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link

There are various domains in projects, and they all need attention; we must have a holistic perspective of the project. Paying attention to a seemingly important domain (e.g., time) is not enough, because all domains interact and they don’t work properly unless they all receive adequate attention.

Example: It’s all about the deadline!

Let’s say you’re building something for the Olympic Games. It has a very serious deadline, which makes time management very important. Is that right, though? What if the quality is so low that it necessitates repeat work after a while. That would impact on time, So, that makes it time and quality. You may have a fancy garden listed in the original definition of the project, but you know that if there’s not enough time, you can skip it and just cover it with grass, as long as you have considered this possibility in time and have prepared for it. So, scope management is also important. Now we have the scope, time, and quality domains at the center of our attention.

Have you heard of that famous example where president Kennedy meets a janitor in NASA and asks him what he does, and he replies, “I’m helping put a man on the moon”? Doesn’t having that type of people in the project help meet the deadline?

As you go on, you notice that every single domain in the project contributes to time management, and you can’t meet the deadline with an acceptable level of certainty unless you pay attention to all domains.

Example: Cherry picking

When people are faced with a variety of methods, sometimes they start cherry picking and create a mix of everything that seems interesting from different systems. This usually doesn’t work, because elements do not work in isolation and have to be compatible with each other. Any additions or changes to a system should be made from a holistic viewpoint.

This is why we sometimes see contradictory elements in different methods; something works well in one system, and its opposite works well in another system. That element is not right or wrong on its own.

The safest approach is to select a methodology for the project, tailor it, and then cautiously add new elements to it by considering the consistency of the whole system.

Example: The anti-process approach

One of the best things Agile methods have done is to draw attention to human aspects. The Agile Manifesto gives more value to individuals and interactions compared to processes and tools, although this may not be a fair comparison. Almost all methods say that human aspects are important, and the real difference with Agile methods is that human aspects are an embedded part of their processes, rather than a simple suggestion. So, it’s not about a competition between human aspects and processes, but rather about the way human aspects are seen in the system.

There’s no doubt that some people try to replace the human aspects by having more sophisticated processes, but that’s only a misuse. Even the opposite exists as well: people trying to replace processes with human aspects, which doesn’t work well either.

Example: These are all the domains you need

When thinking about the domains, you should be careful not to miss any of them. What are they, though? If you check the fundamental resources, you will receive different answers; and yet, none of them is the whole truth.

PRINCE2® themes are domains, but those are only the domains that play a key role in the methodology. The other domains are only implied.

The PMBOK® Guide is not a methodology and can formulate it much better with the ten knowledge areas. However, these are interpretations of all domains based on the PMBOK® Guide’s perspective on the project, rather than a neutral one (not that there necessarily is a neutral perspective). For example, human aspects don’t receive a lot of attention in the PMBOK® Guide.

A good source of information about the domains is ICB. However, it’s not about the domains, but about the competencies that are required in the project. It doesn’t have a one-to-one relationship with the domains, but it does help a lot in identifying them.

There’s no list of domains in NUPP, primarily because it’s a meta-system rather than a system, and also because the categorization of the domains depends on the type of project and its environment; e.g., a routine construction project may need a different perspective from a creative research project.

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discussion icon Written by: Nader K. Rad

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