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7 Reasons Why Your Project Management Methodology Is Letting You Down

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Are you getting the results that you expect on your projects? You have aligned your top initiatives to your corporate strategy. You’ve got great communication going on. You’ve implemented a PMO and they’re doing a fantastic job.

But something is still missing. There’s something the project delivery teams can’t quite put their finger on. There’s a general sense of unhappiness at the way things are done but it is proving difficult to identify exactly what the concerns are.

I think I know what the problem might be. It’s your methodology.

A methodology sets out the way your organisation approaches projects. You might have one, or several methodologies in use. But when was the last time you actually looked at it, with the people who use it every day, and reviewed whether it is still fit for purpose? As you get more mature in identifying and delivering strategic projects, your methodology has to grow up with you. Often, businesses are still using out of the box approaches that they inherited a long time ago, and the PMO or project leadership team hasn’t quite got round to doing the updates they had planned.

Here are 7 reasons why your methodology is letting you down. Could it be time to finally do that review of how you carry out projects and make sure that you’re using techniques that fit your business needs?

1. Your Methodology is Too High Level

Your management team need an idea of how governance will be carried out on this project and how it links to strategy. They’ll want to continually check that it is on track and that the project team have the support they need.

People need guidance. A methodology that’s too basic or high level doesn’t provide the framework for successful, repeatable strategic delivery.

But… beware of going too far the other way as you’ll see later in the article.

2. Your Methodology is Too Bureaucratic

When your methodology involves lots of documentation, process steps, reviews, sign offs, handoffs and all that, it becomes bureaucratic. There are too many points where the flow of work can break down. The whole thing takes too long to use and people get frustrated with the bottlenecks created by the process.

That can kill project morale and lead to undermining your attempts at successful delivery. Watch your governance: it has such a big impact on success.

3. Your Methodology is Too Linear

And doesn’t allow for flexibility, or creative, out of the box thinking.

Linear methodologies have their place, but even traditional ‘waterfall’ projects allow for creativity through change control and the exchange of information at various points. That’s not to say that agile is the best approach for everything, but you should make sure that you aren’t ‘mandating out’ improvements and creativity through creating a linear approach that allows for nothing else.

Project Management4. Your Methodology Doesn’t Fit The Project

Methodologies are not one-size-fits-all although sometimes they are applied that way. You can’t, for example, expect the same approach to building software to work for building a road. You could use the same guiding principles or overarching framework, but the steps are necessarily going to be different if you want a decent end result.

And that’s fine. Flex your methodology to fit the type of project you do. Ideally, you’ll have several ways through the maze of process, allowing project managers to pick the approach that works best for their type of project.

5. Your Methodology Uses Totally Bespoke Language

Creating corporate buzzwords that no one else understands is definitely not the way to go. I looked at some project management software recently that used the term ‘project’ to mean what you and I would consider a task. That’s what I mean by bespoke language. Don’t expect your team to unlearn what they already know about project management so that they can work within your methodology.

Too much jargon and new terminology just means your approach becomes too difficult for people to use. And that’s just the project managers! Think about how hard it will be for your clients and project stakeholders to understand if you choose to use vocabulary that is non-standard.

6. Your Methodology is Too Detailed

The opposite of a totally flexible, high level methodology is one that is so detailed no one bothers to read the manual. Imagine how it would feel on your first day in a project management role at your firm, to be given a massive handbook of how projects must be done.

You’d be a little bit crushed, no?

First, it’s a lot to take in, second, it doesn’t allow for the application of professional judgement, which is probably why you hired the person in the first place. Balance is the watchword here.

7. Your Methodology is Too Prescriptive

I hate reading about methodology approaches that are prescriptive. Actually that’s not the worst. The worst is when pointless workflows are built into your project management tools and you have to follow them even when you know it’s irrelevant for your project.

Prescriptive methodologies might sound like a good idea for purposes of standardisation but they come with problems. What happens when your project context changes? Or there are some assumptions that turn out not to be true for a particular project? Then you are stuck with project teams doing non-value added, bureaucratic work that is literally a waste of everyone’s time.

How To Fix Your Methodology Problems

First you need to know what exactly is letting you down. Then you can fix it. Too detailed, not detailed enough? Too much jargon, not enough flexibility? It’s a difficult balance to get your methodology right, so be prepared to iterate and resolve issues over time.

Generally, improving the skills of your project managers and delivery teams through targeted training will help you offset issues with your methodology. The more confident your project managers, the greater their understanding of the bigger picture, the easier it is for them to apply a methodology in an intelligent way.

Methodology should support professional judgement, not remove the need for it or undermine it.

Does your methodology support the way you work? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear about it!

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth Harrin
Elizabeth Harrin is a career project and programme manager with over a decade of experience in healthcare and financial services. She's also a content strategist, award-winning blogger and author of several books about project management. Find her online at A Girl's Guide to Project Management

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