12 Key Project Management Principles (Essential Guide)

There’s a lot that goes into managing projects.

Budgeting, gaining approval from your project stakeholders, creating your team, monitoring progress, drafting reports….

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

If you’re screaming internally, don’t worry! 

Here’s something to help you out:

Project management principles act as a trusty compass while you’re navigating the entire project management process.

In this article, we’ll explain what these basic project management principles are, their advantages, and how you can use them to manage successful projects.

Let’s get started.

What Are The Principles Of Project Management?

Project management principles are fundamental concepts that you can use for successful project management.

Pretty simple, right?

So what are the basic principles of project management that every project manager should swear by? 

We’ve grouped these 12 into 3 buckets.

Let’s take a look:

Defining a Project

Principle 1: Must be a project

The most basic principle is that there must be a project.

Let’s take the definition of a project by the Project Management Institute: to qualify as a project, the work must be a temporary endeavor and its goal is to create value.

Since project management is a tool used to effectively manage a project, the principles of project management should apply to this definition.

Activities such as responding to tickets or editing content, therefore, do not count as a project.

Principle 2: A clear project structure

A key principle in a project management plan during the definition phase is the project structure.

Without it, your project will fall apart faster than a Jenga tower!

jenga blocks falling on boy

Here are three components that need to be defined:

A. Project goals

How do you start something, if you don’t know what you want to do in the first place?

Determining a goal will set things in motion, and will help you create the project structure. Start by asking yourself what the project requirements are, what needs to be done and why.

As a project manager, you need to clarify the project goal and make it universally understood by everyone involved in it.

But how do you set project goals? And what’s the difference between goals and objectives?

Free project management tools like ClickUp make setting goals and objectives a piece of cake.

B. Project timeline

No one gets an unlimited time frame to finish a project.

(unless you can reverse time like Dr. Strange)

dr strange doing a spell

For quick project completion, you need to have a clear project timeline

It contains the tasks that need to be done, and their start and end dates. 

It also indicates the order in which tasks need to be tackled.

C. Milestones

You should first define milestones and then divide your timeline into these important milestones.

What’s that?

Milestones are indicators that help you understand when the project has entered a new phase.

For example, if your team is moving from milestone to milestone in just a few days; you know they’re working faster than The Flash on caffeine!

And if there is a long gap between two milestones, you’ll need to make sure they move into high gear.

With this approach, you’ll be able to stick to the project schedule. Always. 


woman showing relief

Here’s another thing: milestones boost team morale. 

Because remember, everybody likes visible progress.

Principle 3: Identifying project deliverables

The next project management principle is defining project deliverables.

Deliverables refer to any unique result or product that’s related to a particular process or phase of the project.

So how do you define project deliverables?

Start by asking yourself the correct questions such as:

These types of questions will help you determine the project deliverables and project requirements.

Here are a few examples of deliverables your team might have to work on: 

  • For a web design project, deliverables might include developing a mockup
  • For a marketing project, a deliverable might be a zany commercial
tide man dancing funny

Looks like things are finally looking up for Jim from ‘Stranger Things!’ 

There’s another benefit of having well-defined deliverables in advance.

You won’t have to scramble to add new deliverables midway through the project.

Not only will this stop you from spending too much time on it, you also won’t need to work overtime to meet the deadlines.

This way, you won’t need to cut down on binge-watching true crime shows on Netflix.

Principle 4: Allocation of project budgets

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had a limitless budget?

Unfortunately, unless you’ve got a genie granting you these wishes, you’ll need to work with a strict project budget.

With limited resources, you need to be very mindful of your expenses. 

Remember, you don’t want to be shocked when you find your expenses are off the charts!

So here’s what you can do:

  • consider the possible areas where you can save or eliminate spending
  • ensure that each phase of your project is accounted for
  • reserve a portion of the budget for emergency expenses

Budgeting and accounting can be a lot of work and can need different tools.

But why get several tools when project management software like ClickUp can help you balance the books? 

With ClickUp’s premade Accounting Template, you can manage your sales records, project expenses, invoices and more, all within your Workspace.

Principle 5: Clear strategy for execution

Before execution phase, you need a project charter and project plan in place. These play a major role in the success of large projects.

What should be included?

The planning phase should have a clear definition of key performance indicators (KPIs), project management software used, and risk factors that may affect the outcome.

You should also identify potential problems that could cause scope creep or derail your progress.

Identifying Team Roles and Responsibilities

Principle 6: Ownership by a project manager or project sponsor

The next fundamental principle is that one person, the project manager, needs to own responsibility for the project success. This person needs to act as a spokesperson and get on the same page as the executive team.

As such, project managers guide project stakeholders through their decision-making process, define team responsibilities, initiate the project plan, and measure success.

Because of the cross-functional nature of a this role, project managers need to have great interpersonal skills, knowledge of business and technology, and experience in the work breakdown structure.

Principle 7: Assigned team roles and responsibilities

Just knowing your project objective and setting goals isn’t enough. 

You must also determine what each member should do.

If you don’t do this, you can start preparing for a funeral: because your project’s dead, even before you started work on it!

When you define roles and responsibilities, each team member becomes accountable for their tasks. 

And since your team members know exactly what to do, they won’t waste time trying to gain clarity on the project.

man pointing to his head meme

Establishing Values

Principle 8: Clear communication between team members

Poor team communication = bad results.

When managing projects, strong communication from day one should be your prime objective.

You don’t want your project communication to turn into a game of he said-she said.

Because that would spell disaster.

But why?

Clear communication with your team is key to avoid mishaps. Every member knows what they’re working on and what others are working on, which creates a streamlined workflow.

Additionally, having clear communication allows you to identify and celebrate team member achievements.

Principle 9: Alignment across the organization

This is an important principle to avoid problems later on when a project progresses.

Stakeholders and the project manager work together so that all the components of the organization support one another. This includes the company’s mission, structure, and systems.

Establishing a performance management baseline with three basic components – cost, schedule, and project scope – is important when aligning with company values and setting the scope of a larger project.

After clear expectations are set with management and a project manager is designated to own project activities, that person should be given the freedom to make project decisions.

Principle 10: Transparency and accountability

Moving on to the next project management principle.

Project transparency.

Unless you’re a rogue spy on the run, hiding is a bad idea.

When you obscure project data or statuses from your stakeholders and sponsors, it’s going to haunt you in the future.

And this might diminish trust between your team and the stakeholders.

man saying he made a mistake

However, this wouldn’t happen if you and your team always maintain transparency. 

If everyone can access relevant information regarding the project, including statuses, milestones, and the timeline, things will be much smoother.

The result?

Your team’s engagement levels would be through the roof, and they’ll be much happier and satisfied with their work too.

With ClickUp’s Guests feature, you can collaborate with people outside their team, like stakeholders or clients.

Principle 11: Risk management and detection

Every project will have certain risks attached to them. This is especially true when juggling multiple complex pieces in enterprise project management.

Try out these enterprise project management software tools!

When you assess these risks before the project begins, you’ll be prepared to face any potential issues that might arise.

And that’s not the only benefit:

  • You would be able to prevent any delays in project execution 
  • Your project team members will have a plan to help them deal with any risks
  • You’ll be able to eliminate or limit the impact any issue can have on your project

With this approach, you could also designate an entire team to focus on the risks that come up during the project life cycle. 

Check out these risk management templates!

(We think ‘Riskbusters’ would be a fitting name for this team.😉)

Principle 12: Measurement of project progress

Monitoring and measuring progress is a basic principle that is crucial to the entire project management process.

Imagine if there was no monitoring.

Working from home would look something like this…

bart working from home funny

With ClickUp’s Gantt Charts, you can view all the tasks that need to be done, their deadlines, and the team members who are assigned to it.

And there you have it.

All the principles to manage successful projects grouped into 3 buckets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the basic principles of project management?

Though there are differing opinions on the finer points, the basic principles of project management include the following: a clearly defined project through structure, deliverables, and strategy; clearly identified team roles, including the project manager, and the establishing of values such as organizational alignment, communication, transparency, accountability, risk management, and performance measurement.

How many project management principles are there?

There are 12 principles, which can be grouped into 3 buckets – defining the project, defining roles and responsibilities, and establishing values.


Project management principles are the building blocks of all businesses; no matter how big or small.

Use them wisely, and all your projects will be a smash hit!

However, these principles aren’t going to help you manage an entire project on your own. 

Fortunately, tools like ClickUp were specifically designed to do all the heavy lifting; assisting you with all your tasks, timelines, and team members.

Whether you’re following methodologies such as WaterfallAgile, or Lean, ClickUp has all the features you need to organize your work.

So get ClickUp for free today, and managing your projects will be a piece of cake!

man eating cake

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