Fundamental principles of P3M

1. Establish why each initiative exists
  • An ‘initiative’ could be a project, programme or portfolio.

    ‘Project delivery’ refers to the management of projects, programmes and portfolios in order to deliver the agreed objectives.

    ‘Objectives’ are the results achieved by the initiative and may be in the form of outputs, outcomes or benefits.

    Initiatives are all designed to deliver agreed objectives. The temptation is often to concentrate on ‘how’ to achieve these objectives rather than ‘why’ they need to be achieved.

  • Bringing together diverse teams and engaging with stakeholders to deliver objectives obviously needs a common understanding on how the work is to be done but more importantly, everyone should understand why the work needs to be done.
2. Understand the context
  • Every initiative has its own unique context. This includes factors external and internal to the host organisation such as the technical domain; commercial imperatives; contractual situation; regulatory or legal issues and a host of other considerations. You cannot understand or effectively manage the work without understanding its context.

    Context guides the design of governance structures and processes which must be aligned to maximise the quality of the project delivery and objectives.

3. Ensure that the objectives continue to be worth it
  • An initiative should ultimately deliver benefits that have real value to those who are investing in it or using the end products. Value is both relative and subject to change. Just because value has been identified at some point in time, doesn’t mean that it is then cast in stone. Circumstances change, people change, and the work must be continually assessed to make sure it stays desirable, achievable and viable.

4. Adopt the right approach and tools for the job
  • Initiatives come in all shapes and sizes, and exist in many different contexts. There is a great temptation to pigeon-hole them into discrete categories that match certain methods (e.g. Agile or Waterfall). In reality, there are no discrete categories. All work lies on a continuum of scope and complexity. You should assess the needs of each individual area of work and select the approach and tools that are best suited to the individual circumstances.

5. Build and lead a team that can deliver effectively
  • Objectives are delivered by people. People who need to be brought together, guided and supported to work competently and effectively as a team.

  • Leadership comes in many forms; teams operate in varied contexts and individuals are by definition ‘individual’. Leaders and team members share a responsibility to recognise each others' personal perspectives while coming together to achieve the common objectives.

6. Make good practice a habit
  • Delivering objectives effectively is important, but we also need to be consistent and efficient.

  • Habit is a very strong driver of human behaviour. We regularly refer to ‘good habits’ and ‘bad habits’ and recognise that changing a habit is not an easy thing to do. Many projects and programmes that fail do so not because their leaders and teams don’t know what they should be doing but because their habits don’t apply their knowledge effectively.

  • Good practice needs to become a habit that produces consistency and efficiency. Simple things that increase the probability of success need to be second nature – and that needs perseverance.

7. Learn, both individually and collectively
  • From personal development, through implementing lessons learned to improving organisational capability maturity, managing knowledge and leaning from experience are essential factors in managing initiatives delivering objectives consistently.
8. Behave ethically
  • Ethics are the moral principles that govern someone’s behaviour or the way they perform an activity. Whether it be truthfulness in reporting; legal and regulatory compliance; treating people well; working sustainably or many other issues, behaving ethically is central to being a competent project, programme or portfolio manager.


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