Ten practices for a good project management methodology
February 17, 2022
Ideally, a project management methodology should be primarily used by newcomers or when problems arise in a project. But if you have a good methodology, you will need it in the first case only.”
What do fishing and project management have in common? At first glance, they have nothing to do with each other. However, let's remember the well-known proverb: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". The same is true in project management – it is necessary not only to have a fish (to know good practices and frameworks in project management), but also to learn how to fish (to be able to organize projects, define an effective methodology and approach to managing a project).
Every PMO manager knows that methodology is an important part of a corporate project management system, and that for effective projects and manageability, each organization needs its own set of rules. A project management methodology has many benefits:
- for top managers, it is controllability, predictability and data reliability for decision-making, which makes it possible to manage the organization with more confidence;
- for an experienced project manager who has just joined the organization, it is a guide and landmark in the jungle of corporate processes and rules;
- for a beginner PM it is a set of recommendations, practices and templates that are very useful when you don’t know where to start and which direction to run when starting a project;
- for PMOs, this is an opportunity to save time and optimize the personnel, which, in the absence of a methodology, is spent on repetitive clarification, consultation, verification, and even copy-pasting of very diverse status reports and project applications into one template so that one can consolidate the portfolio, submit a reader-friendly report to top managers and analyze data;
- for a portfolio and program manager, as well as for functional managers, this is an increase of probability that stupid mistakes will occur less often in projects, and firefighting will not be hopelessly repeated;
- for an organization as a whole, it is also an opportunity to reduce overhead costs and expand the list of people who can be assigned as project managers, as having a good guidance and a simple project, even a beginner will be able to cope with it (if s/he is trained on the basics of project management).
In any case, the purpose of the methodology is to ensure effective project management of a particular organization, thus it is better not to copy the standards and set of rules, but to develop your own methodology, which should meet the two objectives, which one might treat as contradictory:
- create a solid framework for project lifecycle management and project governance, and
- provide the necessary flexibility and variety of methods to prevent cases when the project manager and the team are squeezed into frames that do not contribute to creating value in the project in the most effective way.
So, how to create an effective and appropriate project management methodology for your organization? Here are some tips for those who want to successfully develop a methodology that will be adopted by any organization:
- Have a diverse team. It should not be only PMO employees. Invite experienced project managers, both those who have been with the organization for a long time, as well as newcomers. Invite representatives from other units. Even though project managers will mainly use this methodology, their decisions in the project will affect the entire team, as well as other stakeholders.
- Decide on a goal. What problem in the organization do you want to solve and what value to create from the methodology implementation? Above, we have indicated only some benefits for different stakeholder groups, but there may be more of them (both stakeholder groups and values). If you happen to need a methodology for the sake of methodology, then don't waste the valuable stakeholder time, send newbies to read the PMBOK Guide and hire a good trainer. But please remember that with this action you are giving employees fish, but not helping them learn how to fish.
- Consider the organizational context. Organizational culture and management model is the most important factor to consider when developing a methodology. An organization with low risk tolerance on a highly regulated market may have multiple processes and procedures to manage a project throughout the lifecycle, while another company operating in the same market but with high risk tolerance will typically be more flexible on how to manage projects.
- Analyze stakeholders. The implementation of methodology in any organization always has supporters and opponents. Accept this and tune in to work with objections in the most thorough way. Ignoring resistance and objections or trying to suppress them with your formal power in the organization is a bad tactic in the modern world. Very often the objections of some stakeholder disappear if you just pay attention to him and have a conversation about his ideas.
- Decide on a base. What should be quite rigid and change at a minimum project from project in the methodology? Decide on principles and rules to follow. For example, project management should be based on the project value and effectiveness, which must be regularly measured. Or that the project must have a project manager, a sponsor, a formalized life cycle, and a governance structure. This can be done by analyzing projects over the past few years: what problems have arisen and their causes, what has been successful and why. Incorporate these principles and rules into your organization's project management policy.
- Ensure hybrid methodology. Do not seek to fix a lot of things in the PM policy. Everything that can change in projects due to context, product, goals and risks should be placed in a separate guide outside the policy. This may be an add-on to the policy, but there should always be a note that these rules are advisory in nature and are subject to adaptation (tailoring). This manual will be dynamic, actively updated in the future with new lessons learned and good practices. Thus, you get a solid project management structure through policy, and adaptability through guiding and recommendations.
- Ensure tailoring guidance. The tailoring process includes customizing the organization’s management methodology to the project’s context. Therefore, your methodology should contain recommendations on how to adapt the use of certain frameworks and techniques to the specifics of a project, as well as recommendations on when to use which framework and technique. Such project management methodology will be suitable for use in specific types of projects, and the individual project methodology will reflect the size, complexity and duration of the project depending on the organizational context, along with adaptation to the industry in which the project is carried out.
- Expect multiple iterations. Be prepared for several iterations of reviews, revisions and discussions of the created document both before and after piloting the methodology.
- Apply organizational change management practices. Make sure employees know why the change is happening, understand its value, work with objections, provide training, motivate and conduct regular two-way communication (create employees the opportunity to make a suggestion, ask a question, get advice). There are many models of organizational change management in the world. Spider Ukraine, based on its own experience in consulting and implementing methodologies, recommends the two: the ADKAR model and the Levin Model.
- Last but not least, give a masterclass in project management. Project managers and other employees in the organization expect a methodology implementation project to be highly effective and apply the same good practices that you describe in the document. This is a subjective opinion of the article’s author, but it is better not to appoint for this project someone, who will not be able to have a good dialogue with an experienced soldier, due to lack of experience and professionalism.
Implementing your own project management methodology is a long (at least a year) and a complex (due to the number of stakeholders and aspects) process that will require experience and consistency. However, the game is worth the effort - after all, your own good project management methodology can provide a basis for effectiveness by offering principles to the project team that will not derail the project from the right track. But there is another great benefit: the attractiveness of your organization and PMO in the labor market, because the fame that you have good practices and excellent methodology will be attractive not only for beginners, but also for experienced aksakals.