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Key Ingredients of a Project Management Methodology

Created on 21 June 2008 Written by Dennis Bolles
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Efficiency, proficiency, continuous improvement, and best in class, are goals, which are in a large part depend on a consistent application of procedures. These procedures, whose actions are guided by a regimen, are commonly referred to as standards.  Standards are documented processes that, when universally adhered to, generally result in the successful achievement of goals.

The importance of establishing and following standards is not always clearly understood at all levels of an organization.  However, the ability to achieve goals on a consistent basis lies in the unvarying adherence to the use of standards by everyone.  There has been a shift in recent years in the area of nontechnical business processes away from the use of standards documentation that describes the rules and procedures to be followed in infinite detail toward guidelines, which allow more flexibility in how they are applied and contain less detail.  This is particularly true of project management methodologies.  The trend in the past was to create multiple volumes of documentation describing project management procedures in excruciating detail with the thought that the standards would be used as training documents as well as standards to direct the management of projects. The only thing this approach to project management standards documentation did effectively was to gather dust.

The goal is establishing modern project management knowledge and skills as a core competency requirement throughout the organization.  Successful achievement of this aggressive goal requires a well-designed and implemented set of project management methodology guidelines.

What are the key ingredients of a useful project management methodology? The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language defines Methodology as "a body of practices, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline."

Many of the project management methodologies attempt, (but fail) to make strong connections to the Project Management Institute's (PMIâ)  A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOKâ Guide).  These guidelines are universally recognized and accepted as the project management methodology standard, providing guiding principles for managing projects.  This failure is due, in part to a mistaken perspective, held by more than a few, that the PMBOKâ Guide is it self a methodology for managing projects.  The PMBOKâ Guide is not a methodology, but a set of guidelines that identify specific practices, principles, techniques, and tools for managing projects of all sizes and types, regardless of the industry.  The difficulty companies' encounter lies in their inability to translate of the PMBOKâ Guide into an effective methodology to help project managers and teams apply the PMBOKâ Guide..  The focus is typically on product development processes rather than project management processes to manage the work to make the deliverables required to create the products.  These guidelines typically address critical milestones to develop new products with the emphasis on engineering requirements, customer requirements, industry and governmental regulations.

There is a misconception by some in the profession that the PMBOKâ Guide needs to be expanded to become more relevant to various industries.  There is common agreement that methodologies are needed to guide the development of products and services, and there is no argument that project management methodologies are necessary to ensure that new product development projects are properly managed.  The simple answer lies in translating the PMBOKâ Guide into a methodology that addresses the needs of the environment in which it will be used.  The PMBOKâ Guide is designed to be very general in its content, whereas a Methodology is more industry specific, since the application of project management practices is focused on the project or the industry where it is applied.

An effective general purpose Project Management Methodology Guideline (PMMG) contains an introduction that includes:

  • q Vision Statement - inspiration it is trying to impart
  • q Purpose Statement - how will it enable the organization
  • q Implementation Plan - what will it enable
  • q Key Definitions - clarification of common terms
  • q Methodology Overview - layout of the contents
  • q Core Process Integration - Initiation, Planning Execution, Control and Closing
  • q Process Group Definitions - Initiation, Planning Execution, Control and Closing
  • q Project Levels - scaling requirements to projects
  • q Project Classifications - creating categories for requirements
  • q Controlling Processes - key process that vary by project
  • q Core Process / Classification Matrix - tools and templates by classification


The remaining sections would include processes for:

  • q Project Authorization Process -project portfolio management
  • q Project initiation Processes - project start-up
  • q Project Planning Processes - project planning & ‘readiness'
  • q Project Execution Processes - status reporting, monitoring and controlling
  • q Project Closing Processes - project wrap-up
  • q Education and Training Program - knowledge and skills requirements
  • q Glossary of Terms
  • q Appendix - project tools and templates


An example of a generic project management methodology can be found in my book Building Project Management Centers of Excellence, which contains a CD ROM that includes the methodology and all of the associated tools and templates.


About the author:

Dennis Bolles has more than 30 years experience with business and project management in multiple industries. His primary focus over the past 15 years has been advising organizations on methodology development, governance and corporate strategy. He led a virtual project team of 300 volunteers world-wide to a successful completion and on-time delivery of the PMI ANSI Standard PMBOK® Guide Third Edition in 2004. He is a published author of many project management articles, seminars, and two books entitled "Building Project Management Centers of Excellence" and "The Power of Enterprise-Wide Project Management". See his full profile on LinkedIn and invite him to join your network. 
Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 July 2012 23:20
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