Project management methodology contributes to project success, as long as it is used as a guideline rather than dogma.
Studies show that many project managers don’t see the benefits of methodologies and were unclear about why to adopt the methodology.
The key is flexibility. Executive Education facilitator Rob Verkerk outlines five ways to take a flexible approach to project management methodologies.
Assess your project manager’s competence
The methodology needs to provide a high level of guidance and support for new managers but also allow experienced project managers room to manoeuver within the constraints of consolidated reporting and external compliance requirements.
Disregard the zealots
The problem is generally not with the creators of the methodologies, but rather with a subset of the people that use or administer them, sometimes referred to as “process cops and report compilers”.
The manual for the PRINCE2® Methodology, considered by some to be a fairly heavily structured “waterfall” methodology, with more than its fair share of zealots, in fact strongly recommends that it be tailored and allows tailoring of all its components, including themes, terminology, role descriptions and processes, with the only exception being its seven universal principles.
Tailoring is vital
To quote the PRINCE2 manual: “Tailoring is about thinking how to apply the method and then using it with a lightness of touch… The danger of not tailoring PRINCE2 is that it can lead to robotic project management”.
Consciously adapt the methodology
The flexibility is not about the individual project manager picking and choosing which components of project management disciplines to apply. Rather, it means assessing the project’s nature, size, importance, complexity and taking a common sense approach to applying the methodology, taking into account both the mandatory elements of the methodology (ideally limited to consolidated reporting and compliance requirements) and the need to achieve business or organisational success.
Discussion of flexibility in project management would not be complete without consideration of the Agile approach. Originally a broad manifesto for software development projects requiring an adaptive rather than a prescriptive approach, Agile is inherently flexible, with its four broad principles of:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
- Working solutions over comprehensive documentation;
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation;
- Responding to change over following a plan.