In project management, you can characterize a best practice as a process or as an approach. Furthermore, a best practice can apply quantitatively and qualitatively. Consequently, best practice cannot always be rigidly defined as if it was some orderly law of nature. PMI provides a fitting definition of best practice within its OPM3 framework that states, “optimal methods, currently recognized within a given industry or discipline, to achieve a goal or objective.” This definition applies to both processes and approaches. By applying a best practice to a process, you can raise the likelihood of project success, but this might not be enough to achieve success. Often, your approach to project management can be the difference between success and failure.
Best practices are not just a set of rules or guidelines established by hard, cold metrics. If this were true, project success rates should be much higher because we are very good at quantitative analysis. Taking into account qualitative best practices, project management maturity offers a framework for achieving higher project success rates. At the core of these frameworks is a common best practice, which is to continuously improve. In the final chapter of our course text, the author describes and suggests many ways to improve our approach to project management by using best practices for improving ourselves as well as our processes. For example, Schwalbe mentions PMI’s OPM3 that includes four process improvement stages or levels, which are standardize, measure, control, and continuously improve. The first three stages are process oriented; the fourth is an approach. Additionally, Schwalbe mentions best practice approaches from the world’s foremost business thinkers. These approaches are qualitative in nature. Examples include “engage your stakeholders,” “ensure success by planning for it,” and “help everyone in your organization become professional.”
As a professional, the most critical best practice I follow is never stop learning. At times, this sounds like a life long sentence, but change is a reality, and change makes your stillness a professional liability. Continuous learning, however, does not have to be arduous or academic. The practice of continuous learning includes project management’s lessons learned process, it includes the 5 whys, and it includes reviewing write-ups from your company’s past projects. An important aspect about change that you must keep in mind is that change accelerates. That is, the rate of change is ever increasing. Consequently, the urgency and requirement for self-improvement exists more today than it did in the past and even more so into the future.
As mentioned earlier in this blog post, best practice is defined as “optimal methods, currently recognized within a given industry or discipline, to achieve a goal or objective.” This definition aptly applies to qualitative processes as well as to quantitative processes. By applying best practices also to qualitative processes, you improve your chances for project success. However, qualitative best practices require a personal commitment to self-improvement. Additionally, self-improvement should go beyond your professional life because self-improvement is a discipline that needs to be continually practiced. To achieve the best practice of continuous improvement, I follow another qualitative best practice that I began applying while raising my children. It goes as follows, ” be the person you want your children to be.” Put another away, it means that you should lead by good example. When applied to managing projects, the practice of leading by good example is also applicable and subsequently greatly improves your project success rate.
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