Principle-Based Project Leadership
Minimum price
Suggested price

Principle-Based Project Leadership

What project leaders did before methodologies.

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.

  • Share this book

  • Categories

    • Agile
    • Management
    • Computer Science
    • Project Management
    • Computers and Programming
    • Self-Help
    • Software
    • Startups
  • Feedback

    You must own a copy of this Book to access the forums.

    Email the Author(s)

About the Author

Adam Russell
Adam Russell

Adam writes about project management on his blog “Adam On Projects” and in his books and other content at He is also an expert in applying ChatGPT to project environments and has written several books on ChatGPT.

Adam coaches and mentors other project managers, and consults on various projects around the world.

Adam Russell has successfully delivered software development, software package, and systems integration projects for nearly 40 years, using both Agile and traditional approaches.

Adam started as a software developer, and then moved into pre-sales technical support when the IBM PC launched. He launched his project management career after he helped to close a significant government deal. The head of projects said: “You helped sell it. Now, you can deliver it”.

Since then, Adam has worked for companies ranging from 1-person startups to global tier-1 vendors and customer organisations in roles ranging from hands-on project manager through to General Manager of Systems Integration.

In those roles, Adam has been responsible for delivering hundreds of projects, ranging in budget from $5k up to over $100m. Adam also volunteers his time and skills with non-profit organisations.

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?

The Leanpub 60 Day 100% Happiness Guarantee

Within 60 days of purchase you can get a 100% refund on any Leanpub purchase, in two clicks.

Now, this is technically risky for us, since you'll have the book or course files either way. But we're so confident in our products and services, and in our authors and readers, that we're happy to offer a full money back guarantee for everything we sell.

You can only find out how good something is by trying it, and because of our 100% money back guarantee there's literally no risk to do so!

So, there's no reason not to click the Add to Cart button, is there?

See full terms...

80% Royalties. Earn $16 on a $20 book.

We pay 80% royalties. That's not a typo: you earn $16 on a $20 sale. If we sell 5000 non-refunded copies of your book or course for $20, you'll earn $80,000.

(Yes, some authors have already earned much more than that on Leanpub.)

In fact, authors have earnedover $13 millionwriting, publishing and selling on Leanpub.

Learn more about writing on Leanpub

Free Updates. DRM Free.

If you buy a Leanpub book, you get free updates for as long as the author updates the book! Many authors use Leanpub to publish their books in-progress, while they are writing them. All readers get free updates, regardless of when they bought the book or how much they paid (including free).

Most Leanpub books are available in PDF (for computers) and EPUB (for phones, tablets and Kindle). The formats that a book includes are shown at the top right corner of this page.

Finally, Leanpub books don't have any DRM copy-protection nonsense, so you can easily read them on any supported device.

Learn more about Leanpub's ebook formats and where to read them

Write and Publish on Leanpub

You can use Leanpub to easily write, publish and sell in-progress and completed ebooks and online courses!

Leanpub is a powerful platform for serious authors, combining a simple, elegant writing and publishing workflow with a store focused on selling in-progress ebooks.

Leanpub is a magical typewriter for authors: just write in plain text, and to publish your ebook, just click a button. (Or, if you are producing your ebook your own way, you can even upload your own PDF and/or EPUB files and then publish with one click!) It really is that easy.

Learn more about writing on Leanpub