The eight Project Performance Domains in the 7th Edition of the PMI’s PMBOK Guide offer fertile ground for understanding the principles and practice of Project Management. In a series of eight YouTube Livestreams, I examined each one. At the end of each livestream, I also offered my three top tips, 2 favorite tools, and one best insight into the topic.
This seems like an excellent archive of Project Management Tips and Tools, which I wanted to share with you.
So, well look at each of the 8 Project Performance Domains from the 7th edition of the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. For each, I’ll outline what the domain is about, and then set out my:
The Domains are:
This domain is about building effective working relationships with your stakeholders, so you can properly integrate their needs, priorities, preferences, and points of view.
Everyone has ways they like to communicate – and ways they don’t. For example, some people like wordy explanations and others just like to see the data. Some of them like to see the raw data and others like charts. Some people prefer email, other like Slack.
If you want to maximize the positive impact of your stakeholder engagement, then be flexible in how you communicate and don’t try to stick with a foolish ‘one size fits all’ approach.
In the absence of enough information, people fill the gaps with rumors and gossip. So, if anything, over-communicate. Your stakeholders will soon let you know when it becomes too much!
It’s a fundamental human need to feel in control of our lives. In times of change, some of your stakeholders will feel that they are losing control. The result will be attempts to regain control, which you could easily interpret as resistance. So, my tip is to give your stakeholders as much control as you can, in areas where they can contribute to (rather than harm) your project.
This is my favorite stakeholder analysis tool. The two factors are often the most important, and the quadrants create actionable strategies.
For a large project, keep a register of your stakeholders. This could be as simple as a table or as sophisticated as a dedicated CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software tool. But having records of each stakeholder can be invaluable. The information you might keep includes:
A word to the wise… Two things to be aware of, though, are: data protection and Freedom of Information (if you are subject to it).
Always respect your resisters. Their resistance is not because they are awkward people, bad people, or determined to annoy you. They are just doing their best in a stressful situation. By all means deprecate bad behavior and disrespectful language. But recognize that this is not who they are: it’s just the choices they are making. Respect the person and you will optimize your outcomes. And remember:
‘Honest is not the best policy… It is the only policy.’
It is your team who will deliver the project. So, this domain is all about developing and leading your team, so that they can succeed.
The best tool for understanding team dynamics is the Tuckman Model. I would recommend every Project Manager to become familiar with it. Here are some resources:
The way you use language, and the attitudes you display through your voice and body language, will have a profound impact on your team. This creates an obligation to think carefully what you say, and how you say it, at times of pressure and stress. And it also means that you need to be careful in unguarded, social moments. It’s the responsibility of leadership.
I got this quote from the book ‘The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams’. I am happy to give credit where it is due. But I am also angry that they authors do not credit Bruce Tuckman in a book that, to a very large extent, describes his model.
I hope the meaning of this quote is clear. It refers to the way that a team is more than the sum of its parts. A team can solve problems that individuals cannot.
The single most valuable tool for a Project Manager comes in two parts, ready attached to the sides of your head. Do I really need to say more?
The Power of Listening
Communication makes up around 80 percent of the work of any project manager. This is Listening 101.
Learn more about our Power of Listening course
This is my favorite tool of all time and I have created a number of videos to explain:
You get the team you deserve. That does not mean that, if you are a good person, the universe will reward you with a good team. Nor does it mean that if you are a bad person, the universe will punish you with a rubbish team.
What it does mean is that, if you want a good team, you need to work hard to create it. And therefore, whether you do work hard, or you choose not to, you will get the team you deserve.
All projects are hybrid in some way, but what elements will you draw on to create your project approach? And how will you structure your project to optimize the delivery of value and accountability?
Tailoring a project approach and methodology from scratch for each new project is all very well. And it may be the ideal. But the reality is that it will be very hard work. And not at all pragmatic.
It is astonishing how good your result can be if you start from n appropriate ‘standard’ starting point, and then make alterations and adjustments to fit your circumstances. What this argues for is becoming familiar with a wide variety of methodologies, models, processes, and frameworks.
Don’t think about the stages you need: think about where you need to pause, take stock, and evaluate progress. Where are the points you need to make go/no-go decisions?
Stages are fundamentally about governance. Breaking your project into manageable chunks is just a bonus!
Don’t be afraid to invent, innovate, and create new tools, processes, structures. I do it all the time. Seize ideas from wherever you can find them. Adapt them, merge them, and make them yours.
A stakeholder list seems an odd choice of tool for this performance domain. Perhaps it belongs in the Stakeholders Performance Domain? My reason for putting it here is that it makes an ideal checklist for discovering reasons and drivers for tailoring aspects of your project.
Eddie Obeng is one of the most inspirational Project Management thinkers. His 1994 book, ‘All Change! The Project Leader’s Secret Handbook’ introduced us to different types of project, depending on whether the:
Here is a link to my interview with Dr Obeng.
Agile Project Management methods, done well, are like the scientific method. It is a series of short experiments that home in on the truth. That makes it perfect for three of Eddie Obeng’s project types. This leaves predictive project management for those projects that have a clear goal and well-characterized methods: projects he describes as like ‘painting by numbers’.
Good planning is what sets your project up to succeed. The opposite is also true. This domain draws all the knowledge and processes from the PMBOK 6 Planning Process Group, to set up that success through the planned scope, activities, schedule, resources, budget, and more.
More brains create a better plan. In the Teams Domain, my third tip was the quote: ‘None of us is as smart as all of us’. So engage your team in the planning process.
My preferred approach is to distribute planning, with your work stream leaders leading the planning process for each work stream. And then bring them together to synthesize the whole plan.
And do not forget to consult your stakeholders. They will have different perspectives that will help you spot small, but valuable wrinkles. Plus, the knock-on benefit is that active engagement will help with expectations management.
Stress-test your plan with tools like:
Build contingency into your plan. Aim to foresee trouble and add contingency plans for each scenario. Allow additional resources, budget, and time in your plan as a contingency provision. And structure firebreaks into your plan so that, if you suffer delays and set-back, you have time to catch-up without impacting the schedule of future streams of work.
Hang on, haven’t I already mentioned the LRC, in the Team Domain? Yes I have. So, why does it appear twice? Because, to me, this is the ‘Queen of PM Tools’.
A message calendar is a great tool. It places a program of project communications onto a calendar. Therefore, you know at once whether you:
The Most Important Deliverable from Your Planning Process is…
This one may seem a little odd. Isn’t it all ‘project work’? Think of this domain as being about the infrastructure you need to create. It’s a kind of meta-activity that includes things like communication, procurement, deployment of physical resources, and collation of capability, knowledge, and expertise.
I cannot say it better than I do in this video:
This means you don’t need to fear it. Just follow the process. The steps are:
Who knows better what their capacity and availability for work is. Before you start allocating and scheduling people resources on your project, speak with each of your team members. Understand what:
A good communications plan ensures you know what messages need to go to whom, in what format, and at what times. Here is one of my most popular videos to demonstrate how to create a Project Communications Plan.
You and your team will only get better at your jobs if you take the time to learn the lessons from your experiences: your successes and mistakes. And the perfect tool for recording this is a lessons learned log. As you’d expect, we have a template for this in our Project Templates Kit.
Project Management skills are essential to pass your year-end work evaluations. But it’s commercial acumen that gets you promoted. When you think about it, this should be obvious: What does your employer really value?
This domain is a close match for much of the knowledge and many of the processes of the old PMBOK 6 Executing Process Group. And I for one much prefer the word ‘delivery’ to ‘execution’. The latter sounds so… final. This runs through the whole implementation piece, right to handover.
Let’s start with a video to explain my perspective on this.
Now, you’ll need some resources:
When you are trying to determine the scope of your project, you’ll need to balance competing needs, priorities, preferences, and desires from different stakeholders, with varying levels of authority, power, influence, and assertiveness. And, because you’ll have budget, time, and resource constraints, you won’t be able to accommodate every request.
So, determining the scope of a project can be a highly political process. The technical word for this, I believe, is a ‘nightmare’!
No. It comes from their perceptions of them. Ad that is a result of the environment of respect and legitimacy you create around them. Which, of course, means you need to actively engage and consult with stakeholders throughout the definition, design, and testing of those products and services.
A Quality Assurance plan describes how will you actually drive quality into your development processes? As you’d expect, we have a template for this in our Project Templates Kit.
Supported by tools like:
Project Benefits Management
Our organizations and clients are investing a lot in their projects So, they should expect us to realize the benefits that those projects promise.
Learn more about our Best-selling course
I love the term ‘Done Drift’, which I was unaware of before reading PMBOK 7. What this means is that the definition of ‘Done’ (your project goal) will move over time as we refine our understanding of stakeholders’ requirements. My understanding of Done Drift is that this is mainly about the specifications and quality standards, and less about the scope of work. We already have the term ‘Scope Creep’. So:
I understand why PMI separated its Monitoring and Controlling Process Group from Executing. But too many people interpreted this as a different project stage. This was wrong. There is a whole extra skillset here and the domain structure makes this clearer. So, this domain is about assessing performance and taking the necessary steps to bring your project back on track.
The common version of the SMART Framework I encounter is Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound. But there are loads of variants of each of the five letters. For example: Shared, Managed, Aligned, Responsible, Tracked.
And what about SMARTER: Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound, exciting, and responsible?
Or, even, SMARTEST: Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound, exciting, signed-off, and Tracked?
This is a famous quote from Peter Drucker, which I first heard in the mid-1990s from an experienced colleague, called Bob Baker. This has had a profound impact on my practice of Project Management.
In any project, there are likely to be a small number of factors that will have a disproportionate impact on the outcome of that project. I call these the ‘Big Levers’ of the project. What they are will be different for each project. For the different projects I have led, examples have included:
I found that, by focusing on these I was able to control the project to a high degree through a small number of interventions.
If you cannot measure what you want to manage (see Tip 2), then you will need to measure something else, that gives an indication of what you want to know. This is a proxy measure. But, test it out before implementing it. Sometimes, what you get from a proxy is not what you had intended.
Gold-standard tool to measure project value. It takes full account of the timing of all payments and receipts, and used a discount rate to represent the difference between investment rates and inflation.
Take a look at our video: What is a Discounted Cash Flow – DCF? | Video
My favorite tool to visualize work is the Kanban Board. It allows you to see backlog, allocation, status, and progress.I you issue them formally, you can also use them to manage levels of Work in Progress (WIP).
Take a look at our video: What is Kanban? | Video
There are a huge variety of Project Management tools that allow you to create and share Kanban Boards online. These include: Clickup, Jira, Monday, Asana, Favro, and Trello.
Understand the ‘cycle time’ on the monitor and control cycle. Each project has a characteristic cycle time. On some, things happen quickly, while on others, not much changes from day-to-day. If you can monitor progress inside this characteristic cycle time, you will stay in control of your project. If, however, you monitor less frequently, your project can rapidly spiral out of your control.
Uncertainty is in the nature of a project – as are the other components of VUCA: Volatility, Complexity, and Ambiguity. And an uncertainty that can have an impact on our outcome is a risk – which volatility, complexity, and ambiguity exacerbate. Here is where you will find all the knowledge and skills of risk management.
You have surely heard the expression ‘context is everything’. Well nearly, I think. But, the context of your project offes you the understanding you need, to identify many of its risks. Take time to understand the:
…context of your project.
Human beings are very poor at estimating the likelihood of uncertain events. But, the more precisely you state the likelihood of a risk, the more you will fall into the ‘precision trap’ of conflating precision with accuracy. In risk management, it pays to avoid the danger of believing your estimates!
Risks are the most likely thing to bring down an otherwise well-managed project. So build a regular risk review and re-evaluation into the regular cycle of project team events, reviews with work stream leaders, and conversations with your sponsor and Steering Committee or Project board.
It’s the one tool I believe every project should use, if you are responsible for somebody else’s money or reputation. It’s how you show you are being diligent in assessing the risks and managing them actively. And, it’s also a tool that helps you with day-to-day risk management.
I love this tool as a way to identify the smaller risks that make up larger, hard-to-manage risks.
Reduce risk by simplifying complexity. Larger projects are more complex. So, split large projects into programs of smaller projects. This video explains all:
Please do share them in the comments below. I’ll respond to every comment.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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