19 Jan

Common Sense: A New Project Management Method

From today you can now practice my new project management method… for free! It’s called Common Sense® and I think that it can dramatically improve your project management success rates. So much so that I’m staking your reputation on it. Forget all the five-day courses, thousands of earned PDUs and award ceremonies you’ve attended for completing a training course. My method trumps all of those by telling you what you already know; that to be successful as a project manager, you need to be a better, simpler, more positive, likable, organised you.

There are no fancy 500 page textbooks with complicated diagrams. There are no certificates to prove you read something cover to cover. I simply ask you to find a mirror, look into it (this is a very important step) and ask yourself what you can improve based on a few behavioral-based project management observations.

Another benefit of Common Sense® is that in order to refresh your skills you simply need to wake up one morning and say ‘today I will look to change [insert behavior here]’. You don’t have to scour the internet for courses (although a good coach could definitely help) or wait for an annual performance review. You could use the start of a new year, birthday or the fact that it’s Monday to refresh your skills all over again.

Here’s a snapshot of Common Sense®:

Listen first, speak second

Close your mind off to all of the things you want to say and simply listen to what the person talking to you has to say. Stop finishing people’s sentences or dismissing what they’ve got to say before they’ve even said it and be attentive to their thoughts. Projects can be stressful, but communication is not a race.

A little humility goes a long way

You simply can’t know absolutely everything about your project so when in doubt, ask someone who does. You’re not losing face or opening yourself up to criticism, you’re admitting that you’re a human team player who trusts others rather than trying to retain all control. This is a great way to earn respect and you’ll find that you like yourself a little more too.

Planning is a team sport

As a project manager you’ll know that you need a plan and that you need to write it down. You’ll also know that for most projects, you need the input of others to make it a plan that you can deliver. The same people will also be involved in delivering whatever you build. So, get them involved so it becomes their plan too and then you manage the completion of the tasks through creating a culture that others want to work in.

Complex communication is a project killer

Creating a fancy acronym for your project isn’t big or clever. It is a demonstration that you plan to make your project communication complicated. People don’t like working things out for themselves when it comes to projects. They like to be told simple facts about what is going to happen and how it affects them. You should never assume that your audience has the same level of knowledge about your project as you do. If you lose your audience you may end up losing your relevance.

Your project, your culture

The way your project is run is defined by you, so if you don’t like the way something works in your organisation e.g. use of email, inefficient meetings, lack of humour, then you can incorporate all that you want to see into your project and ensure that everyone knows what the culture is. Don’t get bogged down with the way things are currently done, create an environment of success that everyone wants to be a part of and don’t let anyone undermine it.

Playing the blame game benefits no-one

Blame erodes responsibility and provides individuals with an opportunity to walk away from a problem. It leads to anger, frustration and stress and undermines any kind of culture you have built. You should encourage your team to come up with options to resolve issues rather than blame others and you should take the lead on this. Solutions will always be better than arguments and blaming others will always give you the latter, not the former.

Writing things down is part of your job

As a project manager you have to deal with lots of information. People have questions, there are things that can negatively (and positively) affect your project, things don’t always go as planned, people like to know what they’re responsible for and you need to keep track of what’s been completed and what’s still to do. None of this is administration, it’s your job and the best way to stay on top of it all is to write it down somewhere, then keep it updated.

So do yourself, your company and your team a favour and adopt Common Sense® today.

Common Sense® is an open source concept in use by all the great project management practitioners around the world. It’s a concept I practice every day.


The KPS Team would like to thank special guest, Colin Ellis, for this great post!  We pride ourselves on relationships and the benefits that come from collaborating with thought leaders in the industry. Colin certainly fits the bill! Thanks Colin! Here’s a little more about him…

ColinColin Ellis is a project management consultant, speaker, coach, trainer and blogger. He is committed to ensuring that positive behaviours and simplicity remain at the heart of successful project management. You can read more from Colin here, connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.