Project Management Basics – And Why They Matter to YOU!

Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP

Three people having a business meeting using their project management essentials

“I’ve been doing this for years, I don’t need project management essentials.”  

Yes, you do.  We all do.  It’s amazing how frequently we lose sight of the rudiments of our professions.  We forget about the initial “aha” moment of a finely tuned network diagram, and we lose sight of the work package as a basic building block and motivator.

Recalling Project Management Essentials

As I began to gear up to teach my next Project Management Essentials training (, I reflected back on the first basics course that I took back in the early 1990’s, and the feeling I had walking out.

I remembered the eagerness as I thought about how I could dissect the next proposal-writing effort into manageable chunks.  I envisioned a wall full of Post-It® Notes capturing the schedule in sequential format.  I could easily imagine the zeal my team members would have, knowing when they would be done.

It’s easy to forget that the basics became the basics because of that basic sense of wonder.  In cooking, learning to create a basic white sauce opens doors to a thousand other recipes (and understanding the difference between flour and cornstarch makes it amazing).  In billiards, a basic grasp of physics creates the possibility your entire game won’t consist of “slop shots.”

The Fundamental Questions for Managing Any Project

In addition to my public Project Management Essentials class in a few weeks, I have the opportunity to present a keynote in Chicago at a client event—and it’s all about the basics.

We should always be ready to take one significant step back to revisit the fundamental questions that pervade the basic approaches to project management.

  • Is the goal clear as crystal? If you’re focusing on what you’re delivering (rather than driving yourself crazy with the how), then you’re doing something remarkably right.  Checking for the measurability of goals is a crucial step.
  • Have we broken work down into right-sized chunks? Some people strive for the right size, forgetting that there are other rules for building work breakdown structures.  Some focus on the rules, forgetting about the right size.  But mix them both together, and motivation and manageability ensue.
  • Does the work sequence actually make sense? I love to reflect on the world record house built in the early 1980’s in San Diego.  The teams that built that house found so many creative ways to trim the schedule to insane degrees.  And they built that sequence as a team.
  • Are we really looking for ways to get people jazzed about the work they’ll be performing? If we’re not excited about it, then there’s no reason they should be.

Even the most skilled project managers at some time learned the basics.  As we find ourselves diving deeper and deeper into esoteric project management practices, we need to bring others (and ourselves) back to the fundamentals.  They are the foundation on which sound, effective, results-driven outcomes are based.


Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP and Registered Education Provider hosts Project Management Essentials training on the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County (MD) campus September 13-14, 2017.  (The course is independently offered, and is not affiliated with JHU).  Veteran project manager or newbie, he welcomes your participation.