Which Methodology Will Make Me a Great Project Manager?
By Michael L Young
The answer - none! A sound methodology alone does not make a great project manager.
It’s true, being a good project manager starts with the fundamentals of having a robust methodology in place, but even with that there are other crucial elements such as appropriate systems and experienced people that are required to support the methodology. Without them the project can fail spectacularly. It should be said though that a good methodology is the right place to start.
Over the years, as project management has matured and developed in its complexity, a number of methodologies have been developed to help assure project success.
So What Is a ‘Project Methodology’?
A project methodology is essentially a ‘road map’ or ‘recipe’ to follow to ensure all the right processes are in place to achieve project outcomes. A project methodology enables project managers to organize, manage and control projects so that they have the greatest chance of delivering the right outcomes, on time and within budget.
Methodologies ensure the approach to project management within organizations is consistent. The aim is to ensure results can be repeated across projects. It’s just like following a recipe which improves the chance of the food tasting the same each time. However, having the cookbook is not all that is required. Would you expect the same food from a recipe followed by a high school cooking class as you would from a master chef?
How Do I Know if It’s a Good Methodology?
There are a number of common project management methodologies in use as well as many thousands of derivatives that have been based on these. You may find that your organization has adapted a commercially available methodology to fit your organization’s peculiar needs.
The best way to choose a project management methodology is to see whether it has been tried and tested on successful real-life projects.
Federal and state governments around Australia rely heavily on PRINCE2 (TM). This is not surprising as PRINCE2 (TM) is the most commonly used project management methodology around the world.
‘PRINCE’ is an acronym for ‘Projects In Controlled Environments’ and was first developed in 1989 by the UK government to standardize its approach to IT project management in Government. Over time, the methodology was refined (PRINCE2 (TM)) and is now recognized as a good practice approach for all types of projects. PRINCE2 (TM) now incorporates the needs and experiences of project managers from around the world.
Another commonly used approach to project management is the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge). People commonly call PMBOK a methodology - this is misunderstood. PMBOK is more a collection of knowledge and guidelines about project management whereas PRINCE2 (TM) provides a process for implementing the knowledge in practice.
Many public and private sector organizations have developed their own methodologies which are sometimes derived from PRINCE2 the experience of people in the organization. These vary immensely in their quality and suitability for the organizations in which they are used.
A Methodology to Fit the Organization
In essence, an organization needs to look internally to establish whether a proposed project methodology is a good fit. While the project management methodology is crucial to implementing a new program or a project it is only one element and must be approached together with analysis of organization’s structure, information flow, and management control systems. This will enable assessment of whether the methodology is suitable to the existing environment.
The introduction of project management does not, in itself, ensure success. It is important to put effort into making sure the various components of project management are appropriately implemented for the task at hand rather than adopt a “one size fits all” approach. Any new process is to effect cultural and organization change. This will not be achieved unless there is organizational fit.
What a Methodology Doesn’t Give You
A methodology also does provide the individuals skills required to implement it. Being certified in a methodology generally indicates that you have passed an exam demonstrating your knowledge of project processes. There are many individuals certified in project management methodologies who have limited experience managing projects or delivering successful project outcomes.
It is not uncommon for a Government organization to “implement a methodology” which might mean producing an assortment of project management templates and then rigorously enforcing their use. This is often done according to a set of defined standards, regardless of their relevance or applicability to the scope or scale of a particular project.
It takes experience and knowledge to identify when the type, scope and scale of a project require some adaptation in management methods for success.
It is for this reason that many people have a negative opinion of methodologies like PRINCE2 (TM). This is sometimes unfair as organizations often fail to implement all of the essential elements of PRINCE2 (TM) resulting in what is commonly called a ‘PINO Project’ - Prince in Name Only.
So What Is the Secret to Great Project Management
PM Methodologies are critical, however, having a methodology is not the total solution, nor does it guarantee an outcome. Like any solution to a business problem, you need to consider management systems, processes and people.
A PM methodology assists with some of the processes but you need to have the right systems in place to support project implementation and people with the right blend of skills, knowledge, experience and influence to bring a project home.
Michael Young is Principal Consultant with ‘Transformed’ - Project Management Unleashed. http://www.transformed.com.au