4 Key Project Management Principles You Should Know

By mastering a few critical project management principles, you can overcome common project challenges and lead your team to success. These basic principles are the backbone of any successful business endeavor, offering structure, efficiency, and direction.

In this article, we delve into four essential practices you need to follow that will not only keep your project on track but also ensure active engagement and optimal resource utilization.

4 Key Project Management Principles: Overview


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Here’s a quick overview of the main principles of project management—focusing on these will lead to successful projects:

1. Create Efficient Workflows2. Project Management is People Management3. Your Most Valuable Tool is Data4. There's a Tool for Every Job

1. Create Efficient Workflows

Project managers use software, documentation, and frameworks to formalize and standardize business practices. Successful workflows are maintained and repeated, while inefficient ones are reworked or abandoned.

2. Project Management is People Management

Project plans can’t move forward without the support and engagement of its project stakeholders and the alignment of its team members.

3. Your Most Valuable Tool is Data

Company, industry, competitor, customer, and employee data offers you the insights you need to manage complex projects efficiently and effectively. Collect, organize, and analyze this data regularly.

4. There’s the Right Tool for Every Job

A project’s success depends heavily on its environment. We’ve compiled helpful lists of popular project management software, including comparisons, pros and cons, and full reviews.

These tools help with everything from identifying milestones to building out an approval process. They also help project managers avoid scope creep, manage risk, and more.

The Key Project Management Principles Explained

Out of the 12 project management principles outlined by the Project Management Institute, here’s a closer look at the 4 core ones:

      1. Create Efficient Workflows

      The #1 goal of project management is to create a formalized, structured, standardized, repeatable work environment that increases productivity and efficiency, reduces costs, and ensures project success.

      Project managers can achieve this by leveraging the many tools at their disposal, including:

      Software and SaaS

      Software and SaaS

      Project management software, such as Monday.com and Asana, for example, provide the digital environment for your team’s work and lets you store documents and allocate resources.

      Use one of these tools to delegate, communicate, and collaborate efficiently through contextualized spaces, such as tasks, milestones, message boards, and chat threads—each related to clear objectives.

      Project management software is crucial for project planning, these tools let you:

      • Break down project objectives into smaller tasks
      • Assign these within a realistic timeline
      • Measure progress across the team
      • Assess risks, identify bottlenecks and task dependencies
      • And allocate resources
      Frameworks and Methodologies

      Frameworks and Methodologies

      Project management frameworks help simplify the project manager’s job by providing a standardized, rigorously tested, thoroughly documented, repeatable process that governs a project.

      In other words, it’s a recipe for using your software, creating documents, and gathering reports that you can use over and over. There are many different project management methodologies available, each with its own pros and cons.

      Documentation and Rersources

      Documentation and Resources

      Clear, concise documentation allows you to share important information and establish expectations, making it essential at every phase of the project management lifecycle.

      For example, during the planning phase, the “project charter” or project plan clearly outlines project objectives (the project scope), establishes a project budget and schedule, and serves to convince stakeholders of your project’s feasibility.

      During execution, documents convey requirements, expectations, and the project’s goals, best practices, input from customers and stakeholders, and other key resources for project team members.

      If software serves as the “environment” for your project activities, documentation defines the “rules” that govern it.

      Reporting and Analytics

      Reporting and Analytics

      Reporting frameworks offer a standardized way to collect, analyze, and share key project progress or milestone achievements.

      Several performance metrics are available, but Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are popular options for measuring progress.

      It’s not an exact science. Issues with reporting throughout the project’s life cycle are common in project management. Project managers must be diligent about tracking and updating key metrics.

      If they don’t, the risk lies in losing track of their project and, with it, stakeholder confidence. Consistency is key to getting the most out of reporting and the insights it offers.

      2. Project Management is People Management

      Out of all the principles of project management, this one is harder to follow, as there are no key and measurable criteria for monitoring one’s performance as a project manager.

      Project management is fundamentally about people management, as it’s the support of your stakeholders and the effort, collaboration, and dynamics of your team that ultimately drive a project’s success.

      Managing stakeholders can be tricky business. Here are some things to keep in mind:

      Listen to Stakeholder ConcernsRegularly Discuss UpdatesReinforce Stakeholder Connection to Project OutcomesInvite Feedback and Collaborate

      Listen without interrupting, show empathy, and paraphrase what you’ve heard to ensure understanding. This demonstrates respect and validates their concerns, fostering a supportive environment and building mutual trust.

      As a project manager, create a communication plan and regularly communicate updates on project progress, even if there are no major developments. Project transparency is vital.

      Use what you know about your stakeholder’s interests, goals, motivations, and values to communicate and provide updates that clearly align with the project plan and outcomes.

      The more closely aligned a stakeholder feels a project is with their own goals, the more likely they are to support it.

      Actively seek stakeholder input and encourage open dialogue about project challenges and solutions. This approach not only yields diverse perspectives and innovative solutions but also increases stakeholder buy-in and commitment.

      Where your own team is concerned, use the following project management principles and best practices to keep everybody on the same page, engaged, and moving forward:

      Set Clear Project GoalsGet Feedback OftenCelebrate AchievementsWalk the Walk

      Set project goals that are realistic and achievable within the given timeframe and budget and ensure everybody has an equal understanding of them.

      A good project manager should solicit feedback often, both in formal and casual settings. You can use forms and surveys for quick, unobtrusive feedback and regular meetings for more in-depth discussions. Make it clear that nothing is off the table.

      Celebrate achievements and encourage innovation, creativity, and risk-taking within your project management team—even if it doesn’t always pay off.

      As a project manager, don’t put yourself above the standards, expectations, project requirements, and methods outlined in your own documents and meetings. Respect your own deadlines, support your entire team with theirs, and lead by example.

      Read More: 

      3. Your Most Valuable Tool is Data

      As a project manager, you’ll encounter a wide variety of data that’ll help you monitor progress and measure success. This includes:

      • Progress reports from team members and project management software
      • Feedback from your project management team and customers
      • Financial data (including projected and actual costs and value)
      • Resource allocation records
      • Stakeholder communication (e.g. emails and meeting minutes)
      • And quality-control data

      Knowing how to spot trends within this data as a project progresses is a project management superpower. Here are just a few ways you can use data to your advantage:

      Build a Process for Decision-Making

      Build a Process for Decision-Making

      Outline a repeatable process that ensures data analysis is included in important decisions, including risk management. This could include, for example:

      1. Deciding what data is relevant,
      2. Analyzing it to understand what has led to the current situation and what impact your decision will have,
      3. Making the data available to stakeholders,
      4. Making a decision, and
      5. Tracking the outcome and recording any insights.
      Use KPIs to Track Projects

      Use KPIs to Track Projects

      Project managers use a wide variety of Key Performance Indicators to track progress and ensure projects are completed within project deadlines and the set budget.

      Preempt Project Risks

      Preempt Project Risks

      Preempt project risks using predictive analysis—the data you’ve collected from past projects can help you mitigate risks in the future with a risk management plan.

      For example, even tools like Google Sheets include many ways to analyze data with simple visualization tools to make trends in a project’s scope or delivery more obvious.

      These insights can then be used to develop a risk assessment, enabling you to act quickly to manage risks when you see the same patterns developing in your current project.

      Read More: 

      Optimize Resource Use

      Optimize Resource Use

      Efficient resource allocation is the hallmark of good project management. The right resource management software can help you spot:

      • Imbalances between resource requirements and allocation
      • Discrepancies between expected and actual resource expenditure
      • Scheduling conflicts and bottlenecks
      • Tasks that are taking too long, and
      • Gaps in skill sets and availability

      While resource constraints remain one of the biggest challenges for a project manager, missed deadlines, unexpected expenses and the other risks that follow can be avoided with the right software.

      4. There’s a Tool for Every Job


      Monday – Affordable, Easy to Use, and Powerful

      • 10+ Project Views
      • Generous Free Plan
      • Powerful Workflow Automation

      Throughout this article, we’ve mentioned a few different tools project managers can use to ensure project success. However, no two project management solutions are alike.

      It’s important to carefully assess each tool’s pros and cons to find the right one for your next projects. However, hunting down and testing all these different solutions is time-consuming.

      To help, we’ve compiled a number of lists, complete with pros and cons, features, and full reviews of popular solutions. Check out these powerful tools to maximize your team’s efficiency, stay on top of what’s happening, and smash through OKRs:

      Project Management Software


      The key project management principles highlight that the cornerstones of effective project management are a well-defined, well-organized project environment, good people management, data-driven decision-making, and the right tools.

      Implementing these strategies can foster a productive team environment, help make informed decisions, optimize resource use, and help you reach even the hardest project goal.

      Embrace these principles to lead to successful project completion.


      What are the most important success criteria for project management?

      How can project management software improve team efficiency and productivity?

      What are some effective ways to manage stakeholder expectations in project management?

      How can data be used to make better project management decisions?

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      Christian Rigg
      Business Management Expert
      Christian Rigg
      Business Management Expert

      Christian holds a BSc in Psychology with an emphasis on organizational management and is the current Head of Operations for Eleven Media, where he oversees day-to-day business operations, manages a team of project and account managers, and otherwise greases the sticky wheels of company-wide collaboration. Prior to this, he managed operations for a hotel chain in the South of France while completing a Masters in History. When not geeking out over automations and data analysis, he can usually be found cycling and hiking around the French Riviera.