Principle-Based Project Leadership
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Principle-Based Project Leadership

About the Book

Project management has alienated so many of its “consumers” that it is hard to practise anymore. So many people just don’t want Project Management is selling, and with good reason.

The main reason project management is having difficulties is that their customers are no longer buying what project managers have to offer. The practice of Project Management needs to be made more relevant to its primary consumers: project sponsors, teams of people who are engaged to deliver the project, and who are going to be impacted by the project, both during and after.

The project context has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, but project management approaches have only tweaked themselves to address these changes such as newer approaches such as Agile.. Project management has lost its traditional footing, and has not been effectively replaced. 

And yet some form of management is needed now more than ever: we have left a void in rejecting traditional plan-based approaches and replacing them with Agile approaches that are not designed for this purpose. 

This book attempts to side-step the methodological debate by identifying the essence of project management (at least for software projects) so that it can be practised effectively but without method conflict.

About the Author

Adam Russell
Adam Russell

Adam Russell is a highly experienced digital delivery professional with a deep understanding of the management of software development and systems integration projects.

He builds on 40 years’ experience in the software development industry, starting as a developer and then moving into the realms of technical support, and finally project management.  Adam has worked for some of the largest companies in Australia, such as News Corp, IAG, Telstra and BHP. He has also worked for global vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Wang Labs and Wipro.

Adam's experience in startups and working with smaller software companies has instilled the delight of nimble and agile approaches to delivering customer value.  At the same time Adam’s extensive enterprise experience has developed his deep understanding and strong capability in effective IT Governance.  Adam aims to implement governance with a combination of both discipline and agility: strong and disciplined controls where needed, but with agile independence and flexibility that focuses on customer value developing the products.

Whilst at Telstra, Adam managed the PMO for the largest internal software development team, which included up to 700 personnel at its peak size, of which 70 worked in the PMO, covering Project Management, Release Management and Test Management functions, as well as a finance and administration function.  The Program of work for this team varied but was up to $500m per annum of capital expenditure at its peak.

Adam’s strength is to bring together people from all areas of the company at all levels to work on value delivery via software or digital components.  Adam loves to solve complex problems in highly dynamic and often chaotic digital environments, and thrives on building digital products and bringing them to market. 

Adam does this by keeping focus on the outcomes that need to be delivered and by bringing people on the journey.  Although experienced in most traditional plan-based (Waterfall) and Agile methodologies, Adam doesn’t use any particular, preferring to assess each problem on a case-by-case basis and selecting the minimal toolset that is necessary to support each project.

Adam has designed and written many PMO processes and rolled these out to his staff as well as personnel in other teams and companies. 

Adam’s complete work experience, publications and other information can be found on LinkedIn, at the url: 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Introduction

Notes on the Beta Version

The Context to this Book

Defining a Project Manager

About this book

Chapter 2 – Why do Information Technology Projects Fail?


Projects & Failure: A Long-Term Affair

Cobbs Paradox

Knowing the causes of your own destiny

Methodology Capture


Making problems “Wicked”

Projects fail because we make them Fail

Why have organizations not resolved "Cobbs Paradox"?

Methodology Structure, Selection and Use


Undermining the Role of Project Manager

So the Solution is another Methodology?


Chapter 3 – Why is Leading Software Development Projects So Hard?


Software Development is Hard

Managing Software Development is even harder

Fundamental Problems Elaborated

The Endless Search


Chapter 4 – The Failure of Methodologies


What is a methodology?



Plan-based or Deterministic Methodologies

Alternative Approaches to Software Development

The Agile Movement

The Baby and the Bath Water

The Double-edged sword of Methodologies

Benefits of Methodologies

Problems with methodologies

The Great Methodological Paradox

Methodologies for Software Development Project Management

Using Methodologies

Who uses methodologies properly anyway?

The Agile Manifesto

Plan-based (“Waterfall”) vs Agile

The “Paradigm Trap”

How do we avoid the Paradigm Trap?

Zombie Processes

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater


Chapter 5 – A Bridge to the Future: Foundations of Principle-based Management


The Conflict between Technology and Art

Principle-Centered Management

Managing Complexity

Hard and Soft Management Approaches

Complex Adaptive Systems


Self-Organizing Teams

Trusting People to do their jobs

Thinking fast and slow

Nudge Theory

What does this have to do with project leadership?

Principles lead to models of behavior

Principle-Based Leadership

Genesis of Principle-based Project Management

Reject Methodologies; Embrace “Hacks”

What is a Hack



Chapter 6 – Principle-based Project Leadership


Principle-based Project Leadership

Guided by higher-order principles

How does Principle-based Project Leadership work?

Project Mindfulness

Stand Outside your project

Project Management: What are our Values?

Building a delivery framework from the inside out

Building your own principles


Chapter 7 – The Project Action Principles


Project Action Principles

Structure of the Project Action Principles

Dealing with Complexity: The dynamics of PAP’s


Chapter 8 – Project Action Principle #1: Achieve Outcomes, Rapidly


Project outcomes

Outcome-less interactions

Work-based outcomes

Bringing an outcome focus to your project

Strategies for PAP #1


Models for PAP #1

Techniques for PAP #1


Chapter 9 – Project Action Principle #2: Enable Customer Value, Interactively


Your customer is not your friend

A project delivery problem?

Definition of a customer

Definition of customer value

Customers decide the value that a product has: nobody else

Natural Customer Advocacy and the Badass User

Customer Value Perspective

What do customers want? It’s not features

Direct customer contact

Embedding a Customer Value perspective into your project

Strategies Summary for PAP #2

Models Summary for PAP #2

Techniques Summary for PAP #2


Chapter 10 – Project Action Principle #3: Build Shared Models, Verifiably

Project Action Principle #3

What is the secret to ‘herding cats’?

But the secret is not to herd the cats!

What are shared mental models?

The power of shared mental models

Verification of mental models

Representations of models

Strategies Summary for PAP #3

Models Summary for PAP #3

Techniques Summary for PAP #3


Chapter 11 – Project Action Principle #4: Eliminate Teaming Threats, Ruthlessly


Why don’t we have better teaming?

Teaming threats

Removing teaming threats in your projects

Strategies Summary for PAP #4

Models Summary for PAP #4

Techniques Summary for PAP #4

Project Team Charter

Principle-based Self-Organizing Teamwork


Chapter 12 – Project Action Principle #5: Suppress Project Entropy, Selectively


Project Entropy

Manage or suppress?

Entropy Management Leverage

Strategies Summary for PAP #5

Models Summary for PAP #5

Techniques Summary for PAP #5


Chapter 13 – Using the Project Action Principles


This is not a typical “How To” guide

Why do the 5 Project Action Principles work?

Working with existing methodologies

Simplicity, always Simplicity

The Leverage and Extension of Human Capabilities

Tools Techniques and Methods

How to Use

Developing Your Project Management Principles





Appendix 1: Errors Created by Team Misfocus


How to Use The Observations

Team Imbalances

Appendix 2: Pursuing the Perfect Project Manager Revisited

Rethinking “The Perfect Project Manager” by Tom Peters

The original post

The Honey in the Lion


Appendix 3: Customer Advocacy and Understanding Customer Value


Customer Advocacy

A Taxonomy of Advocacy


Appendix 4: Are the Risk Management activities on your project a WOFTAM?

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