Proven Practices

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.”
– Prof. Andrew Tanenbaum

While I’m relatively confident that I’m about to take Professor Tanenbaum out of context, I think that the statement perfectly captures my angst with companies who ask for “Best Practices.”  My general frustration is around the idea that there are in fact scores, if not hundreds of best practices.  Can they all really be “best?”

Has your organization ever begun the conversation on best practices?  Do you ask what other companies are doing?  Is your organization overly concerned about following a practice that others have adopted (even if that practice may not be well suited to your own culture or environment)?  At Slalom Consulting, we work with our clients to help them understand that within the Program and Project Management space there may be few – if any – true absolute standards or best practices.

Best practices are in fact just broadly accepted theories, processes or methods.  Simply because they are broadly accepted does not make them right in all cases for all companies.  I believe this is why we at Slalom do not take on the pretense of a canned approach to solving our clients’ problems.  Whether it is the construction of a portfolio management process or the implementation of a Project Management Organization dashboard, we demonstrate our successes with certain approaches, but we always work with the client to customize our implementation to their needs.

“But Carl” I can hear some of you typing, in your comments to this blog post, “you are wrong!  There are standards (e.g., the PMI) and there are best practices (e.g., create a project charter).”  Okay! You are right.  I’ll concede that there are in fact some standards.  My beef is this: that just because something is declared a standard doesn’t make it right for all organizations in all cases, in one shape or form.

What I have found useful are “proven practices.”  This variation on the theme refers to practices that are not best simply because other companies use them.  The practices are best because they have been demonstrated to add value within the environment.  Some of you may think me a simple wordsmith (“best” vs. “proven”), but the intent of the differentiation is key to enabling your organizations’ success.

Within Slalom’s Program & Project Management framework I’ve created proven practices in 12 project management functional areas that every good PM should know about – not to mention which they should excel at! This core group of proven practices provides a way for us to communicate with our clients without invoking the all-promising “best practices” label, or referring to the PMI (the defecto standard, which has only 9 process areas).

The functional areas these practices cover are:

  1. Scope Management
  2. Risk Management
  3. Project Integration
  4. Delivery Assurance
  5. Issue Management
  6. Monitor & Reporting
  7. Project Justification
  8. Implementation Management
  9. Expectations Management
  10. Resource Management
  11. Project Tracking / Planning
  12. Project Administration

But even though Slalom has successfully leveraged our proven practices at several companies, I wouldn’t expect anyone to limit their horizon to just our approach.  After all, the nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.

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About Carl M. Manello
I am Slalom Consulting's Practice Lead for Delivery Effectiveness. I work to support organizations' capability and delivery maturity -- not just IT organizations -- so that their initiatives run more predictably, efficiently and provide the best results.

6 Responses to Proven Practices

  1. Richard says:


    I agree whole heartily with the distinction between “proven” and “best”!

    I am also glad to see the wheel is still alive. Keep up the good work around this very important and valuable area. I continue to see failures, not from the complex methods and practices, but in failing to do the basic ones.

  2. carlmanello says:


    So glad to hear from you! Hope all is well in your new leadership role. Take a look at some of the other posts and see if there are any other familar themes.

    Make sure to reach out let me know how Slalom can help you in your new capacity. Happy New Year!


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  5. Carl: first many thanks for commenting on my blog and specifically my post “Best practices aren’ best they’re just ideas to consider…” You and I are in “violent agreement” with the idea that best can mean different things to different people and organizations. I do like your use of the word “proven” as a substitute because it connotes something that has some merit in its application, but doesn’t go over the top and declare it the “best” practice. However, I had to laugh a bit because I’ve also seen people use the term “proven best practices.” Anyway, I think folks get the gist of what we’re saying and that’s the main thing. Great blog by the way…..all the best

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