Project Environment & Methodology

Project Environment & Methodology

Organizations approach the area of running projects in different ways. Much depends on the nature of the organization – the industry it is in and whether it delivers services, products, knowledge work or something entirely different. What is equally important is the amount of experience the organization has in running projects as opposed to daily operations.

Some, typically smaller, organizations do not have a settled methodology to run projects. These may be organizations that run fewer, smaller, non-complex projects. It may also be due to a lack of resources (human and other) to implement and run a project methodology. Some smaller organizations may function as contributors to projects where it is the customer or a third party who manages the project.

Many larger organizations have implemented one or more project methodologies or created their own variant. The methodology may have been communicated in the organization, the required systems, processes and templates may be in place, everybody may be talking the project lingo. However, in some cases this has very little effect on the way projects are planned and executed. There is a gap between theory & intentions and what actually happens in daily project work.


Methodology Is Not Enough

Project methodologies are great at providing structures, processes and tools to use for controlled project planning and execution. However, it is not uncommon to see that projects start out following the methodology, but as soon as the first of the inevitable bumps in the road occur, often project methodology does not make it over that bump in one piece.

Are we facing shortcomings in the project methodologies? Are we running a project that is so different that project methodologies can only embrace it with great difficulty? The most likely answer to both questions is: No. Project methodologies are created to embrace a vast spectrum of projects, and most importantly, they are made to be customizable to suit the organization adopting them.

What is far more likely is that the methodology chosen has been implemented in name and intention, but not in the actual way the organization thinks and works. The project methodology is an alien element that we need to make efforts to comply with. In fact, the methodology may be seen as a hindrance to getting work done.

What this often boils down to is lack of organizational change management efforts when implementing the project methodology in the organization. An organization does not “become” PMP, PRINCE2 or Agile simply by implementing the processes and tools. The culture must adjust to new ways of thinking and working, and that process takes time. Management must ensure that the organization understands the nature of projects, buys in to the advantages of following a methodology and that projects are given as much priority as daily operations.


Methodology Overload

In some cases the way a methodology is used is also part of the issue. We may have implemented the methodology without customizing it to suit the organization and the types of projects that are run. We may have implemented several methodologies to reap the best from all possible worlds, e.g. PRINCE2 and Agile, not making it clear to our organization how and when these methodologies are to interact. We may have failed in agreeing with external parties to our projects to act and deliver according to our project methodology. This type of situation creates ambiguity, confusion and project administrative hassles – it is a surefire way to methodologies falling to the wayside in everyday project life.

The main issue here is that the methodologies end up making project planning and execution more complicated and cumbersome. Further, the people involved lack understanding of the sense in jumping through the various hoops to get things done.

What we need to consider carefully is how simple we can customize the methodology to be while still maintaining firm control with projects and capturing the necessary information and key figures. The answer will most likely differ from project type to project type (there’s somewhat of a difference between a building project and a project to deliver a conference event) and from smaller/non-complex projects to innovation projects to large interdepartmental projects. If we run significantly different types of projects in our organization we way want to define several levels of the project methodology with clear criteria as to when each level is to be used for a given project.


Takeaways

Projects are not business as usual. Each one is a unique one-off venture. In order to remain in control with how the project is defined and executed we do well to look to the project methodologies available.

Project methodologies do not implement themselves in organizations. It takes well thought out customization of methodologies to suit organization and project types. And not least it takes a thorough organizational change management effort to ensure that the methodology is understood, accepted and perceived as the natural way to run projects.