Considering a Project Management Methodology?

In many organizations, efforts are currently underway to build an effective project management methodology targeting successful project outcomes. Practical and relevant project management methodologies are an excellent way to produce consistent project results over time.  The trick is to have the right amount of methodology combined with a number of other factors in order to create and sustain this desired state.

In my opinion, the primary goal of building and using a project management methodology is to generate, standardize and continuously improve the organization’s collective project management skills.  This is a broad objective encompassing organizational and individual capacity, capabilities, competence, and confidence.   To do this, organizations must look for and apply the most relevant and practical principles of project management to your everyday project activities.  

How do you define a useful project management methodology and what is in it?  In order to build and apply a practical methodology, you need to consider a laundry list of aspects for that methodology, focusing on the organizational environment as well as the people and projects within it.  At a high level you should start by consider the following factors:

  • Current level of organizational maturity
  • Status of other processes that touch your projects, such as an existing SDLC
  • Change tolerance of both the organization and its project teams
  • Standards that are currently used or preferred by the organization
  • History and lessons learned from any previous process-focused initiatives
  • Types and sizes of projects that you currently perform
  • Significant issues impacting project success in the current state
  • Current project management skills inventory and levels of experience
  • Legal and regulatory constraints impacting your projects
  • Corporate and organizational governance requirements and preferences
  • The expected delivery of business benefits at the project level

At a more detailed level, you will need to create a methodology template that translates what needs to be done and how to do it in a useful way.  I would recommend that you start with defining the following minimum set of methodology, including a set of elements defining what folks need to do.  This might include:

  • High-level road map showing a project’s controlled start, middle and end
  • How to apply/decompose the road map for an overall project into phases
  • Justification and purpose of each step in the road map at an overall and phase level
  • Definition of the control and decision points in the project life cycle
  • Overview of each project management deliverable produced along the way
  • A list of activities to be done to produce each deliverable
  • Descriptions of the triggers, timing, inputs and outputs for each activity
  • Roles and participants for activities and key decision points
  • Procedures and instructions for how you actually do the work (techniques)
  • Any supporting materials to be used
  • Quality criteria for the resulting deliverables or decisions that are made
  • Governance authority and priority of the methodology components
  • Rules for scaling and tailoring the methodology across project types and sizes

Subsequent blog posts will begin to take this information and discuss building a project management methodology from three different perspectives: (1) looking at the big picture by taking a methodology from the top, (2) diving into the details of a methodology and (3) looking at scaling and tailoring what you have built.   We will also discuss the common challenges found in methodology definition and implementation and what we might do to address them.

Susan Weese

Using the PMBOK® Guide to Build a Practical Project Management Process – Position Paper

This Position Paper offers an instructive and insightful approach to applying the various principles of the PMBOK® Guide (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 4th Edition) when building a project management process that aligns with the unique needs and structure of your organization.  Download your free copy here!

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