Right Project Management Method
When it comes to
business there are just a few inescapable truths. One such truth is
found in the nature of work done by any organization. In any
organization, no matter what the business, only two types of
activities are done: projects or new initiatives and operations.
Everything falls into one of those two categories. To succeed, an
organization must do both very well, and both therefore need to have
strong leadership, discipline and visibility at the most senior
level of every organization. For each activity type there are many
different ways to get work done. Unfortunately, not every
methodology aligns with every organization or a particular effort.
Looking at the new initiatives, half of the equation offers
significant opportunities for performance gains in almost any
quickest and easiest organizational gains can be found by examining
the methodology or methodologies used by an organization in the
execution of projects. In over 76 percent of organizations a single
methodology is used to provide the actionable framework of the
project. The most common of these is a waterfall model where
activities are done in a four or five phase sequence: analysis,
design, development, testing, and deployment. This highly linear
approach to project execution is the oldest and has its origins in
the engineering world. Another common family of methodologies is
called agile development. It is frequently found in the information
technology world. Agile development makes extensive use of short
iterations with significant stakeholder feedback to deliver project
results. Each of these methodologies has its fans and detractors,
and they represent only the two extremes of the methodology world.
With only limited research one can quickly discover over 30 major
methodologies. However, there is no such thing as a perfect
methodology. Each methodology has advantages and disadvantages.
Each has situations they handle well and situations where there use
will spell disaster. Unfortunately, most organizations choose
simplicity over common sense.
organizational leaders it makes more sense to select a single
methodology for the execution of all initiatives rather than risk
diversity. Yet, this choice ensures that one out of every three
projects will fail before any work has begun. The desire for
consistency in performance and reporting is only valuable if the
performance is good and reporting is accurate.
The first major
test should be an open willingness to ask some simple questions:
Do you know
how often your initiatives are late and/or over budget?
Do you know
what your average schedule and/or cost over or under run is?
How often do
you end up with fantastic technical solutions in search of a
Do you often
find things are right on track until the last minute when
suddenly they are not?
Do your people
often complain about the amount of process or paperwork they
The answers to
these questions are often indicative of a process or methodology
problem. The easy answer is to keep doing things the same way, but
that is the definition of insanity. There has to be a better way,
and fortunately there is. The better way begins with a few simple
assumptions. So long as these assumptions hold true you can achieve
dramatic improvements in short order.
initiatives are not clones where one initiative is largely
identical to the next. If they are largely clones stop reading
not, use a waterfall methodology and focus on operations
are trainable and capable of making basic business decisions.
sometimes face diverse customer needs and timelines.
impossible to know all the requirements at the beginning of the
sometimes even significant change, is a normal part of the
assumptions are true, then the process that follows will add great
The first step
in the process is idea generation. This is the step where someone
in the organization says it would be a good idea to do something.
All that is needed here is a simple capture method for the idea.
This can be as simple as a half sheet of paper or a simple single
page web screen. Remember, no one really knows anything yet so keep
it simple with not more than five or six questions.
Once the idea is
in the system someone needs to prioritize it against all the other
ideas in the cue. It is best if the senior leadership team
prioritizes the initiative against the strategy. A common mistake
is to not begin tracking until the idea reaches the execution
stage. When this happens you have no idea how much time or money is
being spent to plan your initiatives and that is dangerous.
The next step is
to hold a kick-off meeting. Keep this simple as well. It should be
about an hour and never longer than 90 minutes. All the major
stakeholders should attend the meeting, and the sponsor should
always start the meeting. However, the sponsor only needs to be
there for the first 10 minutes. If the sponsor is not willing to be
there don’t do the project. At some point the project will run into
trouble and if the sponsor won’t give 10 minutes to start the
initiative how much support can be counted on later? The major
objective of this meeting is to determine what will be the best way
to get the work done, and not find the technical solution. This
means having the technical team at the kick-off is fine, but only if
they can listen. Here are some questions that can help you select
the best methodology once the kick-off is complete. Remember, it is
as much about observing behaviors as it is capturing what people
understood are the project requirements by the business and
project require the use of new technology?
project involve a high volume transaction system or process?
project require the use of external consultants?
project team have constant access to business stakeholders?
What is the
experience level of the project team?
How large is
the project team?
comfortable the team is with the project and the less well
understood the requirements the more an iterative process is
required. Implementing a multi-methodology process can be
confusing, but if one out of three efforts are failing today because
of misaligned methodologies can you really afford not to change?
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