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:
- 3 top tips
- 2 favorite tools
- 1 best insight
The Domains are:
- Development Approach and Life Cycle
- Project Work
1. Stakeholders Performance Domain
This domain is about building effective working relationships with your stakeholders, so you can properly integrate their needs, priorities, preferences, and points of view.
3 Top Stakeholders Domain Tips
Tip 1: Communicate with People the Way they Like to Communicate
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.
Tip 2: You can Never Communicate Enough… Until the Point where You Communicate Too Much
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!
Tip 3: People Need Control
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.
Tool 1: Impact vs Attitude Triage Process
This is my favorite stakeholder analysis tool. The two factors are often the most important, and the quadrants create actionable strategies.
Tool 2: Stakeholder Register
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).
1 Best Stakeholders Domain Insight
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.’
2. Team Performance Domain
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.
3 Top Team Domain Tips
Tip 1: Use the Tuckman Model of Group Development to Understand Team Dynamics
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:
- What is the Tuckman Model of Group Development? | Video
- Get Better Results from you Team with Tuckman (article)
Tip 2: Your Team will Hang onto the Messages You Deliver
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.
Tip 3: ‘None of us is as smart as all of us’
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.
2 Favorite Team Domain Tools
Tool 1: Listening
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.
Tool 2: Linear Responsibility Chart (LRC), aka RACI Chart
This is my favorite tool of all time and I have created a number of videos to explain:
1 Best Team Domain Insight
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.
3. Development Approach and Life Cycle Performance Domain
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?
3 Top Development Approach and Life Cycle Domain Tips
Tip 1: Tailored Suits vs Buying Ready-made… and making Alterations
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.
Tip 2: Stages mean Boundaries
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!
Tip 3: Project Management is a Creative Endeavor
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.
2 Favorite Development Approach and Life Cycle Domain Tools
Tool 1: Stakeholder List
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.
Tool 2: Eddie Obeng’s Four Project Types
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:
- Goal is clear or uncertain
- Method is known or needs to be created
Here is a link to my interview with Dr Obeng.
1 Best Development Approach and Life Cycle Domain Insight
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’.
4. Planning Performance Domain
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.
3 Top Planning Domain Tips
Tip 1: Build a Better Plan
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.
Tip 2: Build a Robust Plan
Stress-test your plan with tools like:
- Scenario Planning
Identifying arrange of scenarios to test your plan against
Assuming complete project failure and finding reasons why this might happen
- Red Team Review
Asking a second, ‘red’, team to review your plan with the intent to discover every tiny defect and questionable assumption. Brutal!
Tip 3: Go for Over-strength
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.
2 Favorite Planning Domain Tools
Tool 1: The Linear Responsibility Chart… again
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’.
Tool 2: Message Calendar
A message calendar is a great tool. It places a program of project communications onto a calendar. Therefore, you know at once whether you:
- have a logical sequence of messages
- are communicating frequently enough
- have created too many messages in one time period
1 Best Planning Domain Insight
The Most Important Deliverable from Your Planning Process is…
5. Project Work Performance Domain
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.
3 Top Project Work Domain Tips
Tip 1: Get involved in the Contract Negotiations that Matter
I cannot say it better than I do in this video:
Tip 2: Negotiation is a Process
This means you don’t need to fear it. Just follow the process. The steps are:
- Powerful Negotiation Skills: Your Guide to How You Can Win
- How to Negotiate: The Basics of Negotiation | Video
- You Don’t Get What You Deserve… You get what you negotiate | Video
Tip 3: Work with Your Team Members to Establish Workload Capacity and Availability
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:
- they want to be doing (if possible)
- their strengths, weaknesses, and general capabilities are
- their other (non-project) commitments are
2 Favorite Project Work Domain Tools
Tool 1: Communications Plan
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.
Tool 2: Lessons Learned Log
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.
1 Best Project Work Domain Insight
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?
- Profit (if they are a commercial organization) or
- Surplus to reinvest in services (if they are non-commercial)
6. Delivery Performance Domain
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.
3 Top Performance Domain Tips
Tip 1: It’s Time to Take Quality Management Seriously
Let’s start with a video to explain my perspective on this.
Now, you’ll need some resources:
Tip 2: Scoping (or Requirements Gathering) is the Hardest Part of Project Management
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’!
Tip 3: Stakeholder Satisfaction Does NOT Come from the Products or Services You Create
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.
2 Favorite Performance Domain Tools
Tool 1: Quality Assurance (QA) Plan
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.
Tool 2: Benefits Realization Plan
Supported by tools like:
- Benefits Map
- Benefits Traceability Matrix
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.
1 Best Performance Domain Insight
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:
- Scope Creep is the movement over time in the scope requirements of your project
- Done Drift is the movement over time in the quality requirements of your project
7. Measurement Performance Domain
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.
3 Top Measurement Domain Tips
Tip 1: Consider Alternatives to the Usual SMART Framework Terms
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.
- S for specific, stated, shared, supported, signed-off
- M for measurable, meaningful, magical, managed
- A for achievable, agreed, attainable, actionable, aspirational, aligned, ambitious
- R for realistic, relevant, responsible, reinforced, rewarding, real
- T for time-bound, timed, towards, tracked, tested, testing
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?
Tip 2: ‘What gets measured gets managed’
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:
- Risk Management
- Testing Sign-off delivery
- Reporting to the Project Sponsor
- Resource Allocation
- Daily progress
I found that, by focusing on these I was able to control the project to a high degree through a small number of interventions.
Tip 3: Take Care in Choosing Proxy Measures
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.
2 Favorite Measurement Domain Tools
Tool 1: Discounted Cash Flow
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
Tool 2: Kanban Board
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.
1 Best Measurement Domain Insight
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.
8. Uncertainty Performance Domain
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.
3 Top Uncertainty Domain Tips
Tip 1: Invest Time in Understanding the Context will Help You Better Identify Risks
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.
Tip 2: Avoid the Precision Trap in Evaluating Risks
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!
Tip 3: Build Risk Review onto the Heartbeat of Your Project
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.
2 Favorite Uncertainty Domain Tools
Tool 1: Risk Register
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.
Tool 2: Ishikawa (Fishbone) Diagram
I love this tool as a way to identify the smaller risks that make up larger, hard-to-manage risks.
1 Best Uncertainty Domain Insight
Reduce risk by simplifying complexity. Larger projects are more complex. So, split large projects into programs of smaller projects. This video explains all:
What are Your Favorite Tips, Tools, and Insights?
Please do share them in the comments below. I’ll respond to every comment.