Project management professionals use a variety of jargons in the realm of project management. One such widely used jargon is known as ‘project guardrail’. The origin of the term ‘project guardrail’ in is unclear, but it is likely a metaphor borrowed from the physical world. A guardrail in the physical world is a barrier that provides a barrier of protection and prevents vehicles from veering off the road. In project management, guardrails serve a similar purpose by providing boundaries that help to keep the project on track and protect it from potential risks or issues. The term “guardrail” in project management is used to convey the idea of a protective barrier that helps to ensure the success and stability of a project.
Guradrails can include but are not limited to guidelines, policies, procedures, and limits that are established to manage the scope, budget, timeline, and quality of a project. Guardrails help to ensure that the project stays on track and that project outcomes meet the required standards. They serve as a “safety net” to prevent the project from veering off course and help to minimise the impact of any challenges that may arise during the project lifecycle.
Guardrails are used in project management when:
- Managing project scope: To ensure that the project stays within the defined boundaries and does not become too complex or unwieldy.
- Controlling project budget: To prevent overspending and ensure that the project stays within the approved financial limits.
- Monitoring project timeline: To keep the project on schedule and ensure that deadlines are met.
- Ensuring project quality: To maintain the desired level of quality and prevent compromises that could affect the overall project outcome.
- Managing risks: To identify and mitigate potential risks that could impact the project.
- Making decisions: To provide a framework for making informed decisions and resolving conflicts that may arise during the project lifecycle.
Guardrails are used throughout the project lifecycle and are particularly important during the planning and monitoring stages of a project. There are several benefits of having guardrails to ensure effective and efficient management of a project.
- Provide structure and control: Guardrails help to define the boundaries of a project and ensure that it stays within scope, budget, timeline, and quality constraints.
- Reduce risk: Guardrails help to identify and mitigate potential risks, which helps to minimize the impact of any challenges that may arise during the project lifecycle.
- Ensure consistency: Guardrails help to ensure consistency in project management practices, which supports the delivery of high-quality project outcomes.
- Facilitate decision-making: Guardrails provide a framework for making informed decisions and resolving conflicts that may arise during the project lifecycle.
- Improve project outcomes: By keeping the project on track and within constraints, guardrails help to ensure that project outcomes meet the required standards and are delivered on time and within budget.
- Support continuous improvement: By regularly reviewing and refining guardrails, project managers can identify areas for improvement and make changes to the project plan to optimise project performance.
An example of a guardrail in a project could be a budget constraint. For instance, a project manager might establish a budget guardrail that sets a limit on the amount of money that can be spent on a particular project phase or task. This guardrail helps to ensure that the project stays within the approved financial limits and prevents overspending, which could result in delays or project failure. If the budget guardrail is breached, the project manager will be alerted, and the cause of the overspending will be investigated. This information can then be used to adjust the budget or to the project plan to ensure that the project stays within the approved financial limits.