Dmitrii Ilenkov on The BEST Project Portfolio Management Show by Appfire episode 28

“What are the Nearly Universal Principles of Projects (‘NUPP’)?” Find out in this episode of Appfire Presents: The Best Project Portfolio Management Show by Appfire.

Project management expert and founder Dmitrii Ilenkov joins Appfire’s Kerry O’Shea Gorgone to talk about NUPP—a set of project management principles compatible with all the major methodologies, including Scrum, PRINCE2®, PMBOK® Guide,, and XP.

About the guest

Dmitrii Ilenkov is a project management practitioner with more than 10 years of experience. 

He’s lectured about project management for Finance University and the Higher School of Economics, and founded PMCLUB and

About the show

The BEST Project Portfolio Management Show by Appfire covers everything you ever wanted to know about PPM by talking with project management experts who’ve seen it all. And every episode is 10 minutes or less, so you can get back to changing the world, one project at a time.

For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

What are the Nearly Universal Principles of Projects (‘NUPP’)?

Kerry:  Today we’re going to address what are the Nearly Universal Principles of Projects, otherwise known as NUPP. To help us with that is Dmitrii Ilenkov, PMP, PhD, managing partner of PM Club, and also the founder of Stick around for 10 minutes of project management awesome.

Dmitrii, what is NUPP? More principles, another way of doing things?  

Dmitrii:  More principles. It’s a universal way of doing things, and that’s the point. You probably know that some methodologies are based on principles, others are based on processes or rules. 

For example, the previous edition of PMBOK (PMBOK 6) had 49 processes. That’s a lot, right? Is it enough? Do we use all of them? Do we need more? Both answers I kind of know. It’s not enough, and we do not use all of them, they are not universal. 

Principles here are much better because they are more universal. PMBOK 7 has 12 principles, just like Agile Manifesto. PRINCE2 has 7 principles, and that’s much better, but are they really universal? Can we easily apply them outside this approach on themselves? I’m not so sure. It might be hard. We need something more universal.

Kerry:  How many is NUPP? 

Dmitrii:  Just 6, and they are really universal. 

Kerry:  They’ll apply whether you use scrum or whether you use P3 Express? 

Dmitrii:  Yes. Whether you have a PMBOK guide or PRINCE2, they apply. Even more, they actually apply outside of project management. 

Kerry:  Really?

Dmitrii:  Yes. It is very easy to apply them in your daily business, in your life even. They make sense. 

Kerry:  So, these are like lessons for life. 

Dmitrii:  Let’s have a look.

Kerry:  Let’s go. What’s the first NUPP? 

Dmitrii:  The first NUPP, prefer results and the truth to affiliations. That’s a good one. 

Long ago, when we were hunter-gathers, sticking to the group was very efficient, sticking to the old ways was very efficient. If you try to hunt a mammoth with a knife, you fail, dead. You try something else, it works, cool, you repeat it, and it works. Nowadays, we actually have better ways to learn, and our life is more failsafe. We need to learn faster, so we need to be more open-minded. 

For example, do you need a backlog or do you need a detail schedule? Any fast answer you give me is probably wrong. Why? Because if you give an answer based on your preferences, based on your knowledge and your skills, that might not be the best answer. The best answer should be based on the type of project, on the data you have, on your customers, and on your team. Whenever you face a question, you should not stick to your preferences, to your style, but better choose the best option possible.

Kerry:  To get the best results. 

Dmitrii:  Exactly. The second one, preserve and optimize energy and resources. It sounds easy, but actually hard working is kind of a virtue. We’re so proud that we work extra hours and that we work sometimes weekends and holidays. As project managers, we have to make decisions, and decisions take a lot of energy, so we need to save it. 

As project managers, we need to set a good example for our team. If you are working 24/7 with no work-life balance, is it a good example for your team, really? I don’t think so. So, preserve and optimize energy and resources. 

Kerry:  At Appfire, one of our core principles is be human, so we definitely don’t want people working 24 hours, we want people taking time off. Absolutely. What else, what’s another NUPP? 

Dmitrii:  Always be proactive. It sounds simple. I live in Turkey, in a wonderful place with wonderful people, but there is one small problem. Taxi drivers never build routes, they never use maps. Sometimes, as you might guess, it’s a bad decision. It’s obvious, right? You don’t build a route, you get lost. 

What about projects? A CEO initiates a project, approves it straightaway without justifying, and then you try to make some plans. The customer asks for a new feature. You add a new feature without estimating. Sounds familiar. I hope you do not do it personally, but probably you’ve been in such situations. It’s much better to be proactive, to create plans upfront. It’s sprint planning when talking about scrum, it’s monthly initiation when talking about P3 Express, and it naturally applies to all other project methodologies. 

Upfront planning is good. Being proactive is good. It saves you time and energy. 

Kerry:  We’re halfway through NUPP already.

Dmitrii:  Yes, it’s that simple. Another one is remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We all have that problem. We keep polishing one feature while we need to focus on the others which are not yet ready to be released. We keep creating plans, we keep adding details to our schedule, while we’re better doing something else. For example, work on risk identification, improve communication in the team and with the customer. 

It’s easy to say remember that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, but it’s very hard to avoid it. When you feel you want to focus on something you like, better double check, maybe you need to focus on something else.

Kerry:  Keep your eye on the ball.

Dmitrii:  Absolutely. Talking about that, don’t do anything without a clear purpose. Why is probably the best question you can ask a project manager, a team member, or a project sponsor.

For example, never start a project without justifying and identifying the benefits. Probably that is not the project your company needs. Doing the right projects is probably even more important than doing projects right.

Kerry:  Clear purpose from the very start.

Dmitrii:  Absolutely. The last one is use repeatable elements. What does that mean? Use checklists. Improve your knowledge base. Use templates. By this, once again, you save your time, you save your energy, and it’s much easier to be proactive when you use repeatable elements because half of the work is already done.

That’s the set of only six principles. They work one by one, but you achieve much better results if you try to apply all of them.

Kerry:  All six, because it’s only six. It’s not 30 or 100. Okay. I love that they apply to all of the different ways that people manage projects. These are universal, so you’re not going to have a lot of in fighting about that’s not how we do it here, because who is going to be like, “I don’t want to be proactive.”

Dmitrii:  That’s the point, they do not sound revolutionary, they do not contradict Agile Manifesto or PMBOK principles. They are more universal. They sound familiar to us, but somehow we keep forgetting about those. Focus on them and you’ll achieve better results for your teams, for your projects, for your customers, and for you.

Kerry:  Great. Dmitrii, thank you so much for explaining NUPP to us. This has been The Best Project Portfolio Management Show by Appfire. For more episodes, visit We’ll see you next time.

Last updated: 2023-06-05

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