Project Management: The Definitive Guide (2023)

This is the definitive guide to project management in 2023.

And let me be clear about something:

This is not your average “project management guide” on the internet.

Yes, I’ll cover the fundamentals of modern project management.

But you’ll also gain valuable insights from my own experience of managing projects.

So if you’re looking to improve your project management skills, this guide is for you.

Note: This guide is work in progress. It’ll be updated throughout the year.

Chapter 1: The Basics of Project Management

What is Project Management?

Project management is the process of planning, executing, and completing projects to achieve specific goals within set boundaries of scope, quality, time and budget.

So what’s a project, exactly?

A project is a set of tasks that must be completed to accomplish a particular objective.

Building a new website, launching a marketing campaign, or developing a new product are all examples of projects, unlike ongoing customer support and daily sales activities.

Why is Project Management Important?

Projects are a great way to structure work!

They have a clear beginning and end, with specific goals to accomplish, enabling teams to stay focused on the right things.

However, without effective management, projects can become disorganized, fall behind schedule, and exceed budget.

This is where project management comes in, offering methods and tools to ensure projects are completed successfully.

How to manage projects

I like to think about project management as project coordination.

That way, it’s clear that it’s about coordinating people and removing obstacles rather than (micro-)managing people.

So to make projects go smoothly you should focus on making coordinating people as easy as possible by having the right conditions and processes.

Here are some principles I follow:

Small teams are better than big teams

Here’s the thing: A small team (2-4 people) has less communication overhead than a big team.

So while a big team may have to coordinate the work between many people, a small team can focus on executing the tasks at hand.

It’s amazing what a team of two can accomplish if you cut away the crap and let them focus on getting stuff done.

Small is leaner. Faster. Better.

Manage processes, not people

If you give people ownership they’ll do amazing work.

They’ll take responsibility.

They’ll figure things out.

And they’ll be motivated to make the project a success.

So make sure everyone on the team understands the project’s objectives, and you won’t have to manage them.

Instead, focus on managing the processes that support and guide the team so they can work as efficiently as possible.[^manage processes]

Cut down on meetings

Often, meetings can look like work.

“Sam always has a busy schedule, he must be working hard.”

“Sarah always attends meetings, she must be very involved in the project.”

But the truth is that meetings are often a waste of time.

They’re usually too abstract, come without agendas, and drift off-topic faster than you can say “scope creep.”

And if your days are filled with meetings, how could you possible get anything important done? There’s just too much context switching and not enough time to focus on deep work.

So before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really necessary to have the conversation face-to-face or whether it could be handled through an email. More often than not, the answer is the latter.

If you really have to schedule a meeting, make sure to:

  • Keep it to 30 minutes.
  • Only invite the necessary people.
  • Share the agenda beforehand.
  • Come prepared[^come prepared]

And if you get an invitation:

  • Suggest to do shorter meetings (30 minutes maximum).
  • Politely decline if you believe your input or presence isn’t required.
  • Ask for an agenda if none has been provided.
  • Come prepared[^come prepared]

Chapter 2: The Project Manager

In this chapter, we’ll delve into the project manager role and responsibilities.

Note: This chapter is work in progress.

What does a project manager do?

There is no need for a dedicated person managing a project. It can be managed absolutely fine by the people working on it.

Instead, a product manager — or project driver as I prefer to call it — should remove obstacles and coordinate people.

In my experience, if you give people ownership, they’ll do great things.

Create an environment where everybody knows what they should work on

Your job as a project manager is to explain what needs to be done and why, not how it should be done — leave the implementation details to the experts: developers and designers.

In my view, a project manager shouldn’t tell people what to work on. Instead, he or she should create an environment where everybody knows what they should do — and why it’s important.

As an example, let’s say that you’re leading a project to improve the checkout experience in your company’s e-commerce application.

Customers have expressed that the current version is confusing with too many fields in the checkout form.

Instead of jumping straight into the implementation, explain why it’s important to improve the checkout experience and what needs to be done to reach the objective.

For instance: ”We see a high drop-off rate in the checkout. By improving the experience we can increase customer satisfaction, lower the drop-off rate, and ultimately increase profits. To improve the checkout experience we need to test a new version with customers and iterate based on their feedback.

Then, the team can apply their knowledge and expertise to reach the target.

I believe this is a good approach to avoid micro-managing a project. And the people involved get a chance to grow, which is much more fun!

Chapter 3: Project Management Methodologies

Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, SAFe1, Shape Up…

There’s many ways to manage a project.

All have their strengths and weaknesses, and no single one is a silver bullet for every project and organization.

In this chapter we’ll dive deeper into each of these methodologies and discuss their pros and cons.

Note: This chapter is work in progress.

Chapter 4: Project Management Tools

Searching for “project management tools” on Google returns hundreds of results.

From simple task trackers to complex enterprise solutions, the options seem endless.

But how do you know which tool is right for you, your team and your organization?

And which tools do you really need?

In this chapter, we’ll explore the project management tools you need to manage projects like a pro.

Note: This chapter is work in progress.

Chapter 5: The Future of Project Management

In the final chapter, we will explore the future of project management.

We’ll discuss emerging trends like (AI-powered) automation, remote work and lifelong learning.

Note: This chapter is work in progress.

Artificial Intelligence and Project Management

In the next decade, artificial intelligence will transform industries.

From management consulting to healthcare, education to transportation, the future of work will be shaped by AI.

And as technology advances, so too must our approaches to project management.

Note: To be continued. Work in progress.

Now It’s Your Turn

So that was THE guide I wish I had when I first started managing projects.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

What did you learn today?

And how will you apply it in your work?

  1. Frameworks like SAFe promise to scale agile across enterprise organizations. In reality, this rarely works