Best Practices in Project Management - or Better Practice?

Saira Karim, PMP


Best practices in project management are tried and tested processes collected from experiences and lessons learned. They've been repeated and improved to produce consistent outcomes. They are documented as examples, baselines and measures.


Project managers who favor best practices and processes believe it's unnecessary to "reinvent the wheel." They believe using best practices in projects has many advantages:


Project managers have access to tools, techniques, metrics and templates to use on their projects at any time.

Best practices provide consistency of expectation, activities and communication for the team.

They're generally driven by values and results, and can improve customer confidence.

Construction, infrastructure and power projects have best practices as industry norms to standardize quality, safety and other requirements.

Not everyone agrees with using best practices, however. Some argue against the blanket use of best practices because, frankly -- times change.


Best practices for projects from 10 to 20 years ago are outdated as technology and real time communications continue to evolve, for instance. More customers are aware of project management, resulting in changed expectations. And definitions of acceptability, constraints and assumptions may differ from the environment where these best practices originated.


I agree that we shouldn't reinvent the wheel. However, I do stress that the wheel should fit properly in order to fulfill its purpose. 


Best practices are excellent if there is cooperation and consistency in an organization from top to bottom. Rigidly imposed processes that are unwanted and misunderstood cause problems and restrict new thinking.


Project managers should use best practices but they should build, fine-tune and improve them to fit an organization. Should best practices become better practices or best-fit practices so they become molded, enhanced and understood by the organization and the people who will benefit from them?


How do you enhance best practices for your projects? Do you think best practices are near perfect? Do you agree or disagree that extra effort should be applied to mold best practices?