Stephen B. Page

You’re probably saying, “Blah! I spend more time doing the methodology than doing the actual project!” Statements like this amaze me, because every project manager exhibits some form of discipline and consistency when executing projects and running their own lives. Projects just don’t fund themselves, start themselves, and complete themselves. At a minimum, there has to be some sort of funding process, and the project manager must use some guidelines for scheduling activities, even if it’s in the form of a spreadsheet or word processing program instead of a scheduling tool like Microsoft Project or Niku Workbench.

There are some companies that have built reputations for being able to consistently manage projects effectively. However, the vast majority of organizations have a more spotty reputation. If your organization can’t meet a deadline or beat a budget, reacts to problems after they occur, thinks the use of project management processes are a major investment and a waste of time, or continually adds resources as a project progresses, then you need a repeatable project management methodology to maintain better control and make confident decisions.

A project management methodology enables you to:

  • Make decisions with confidence and achieve better visibility and control of a project.
  • Meet deadlines, stay within a budget, and achieve high quality by meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Lower the cost of a project by accomplishing more work in less time and with fewer resources without any sacrifice in quality.
  • Provide guidelines and flexibility.
  • Unify teams.
  • Minimize conflict and confusion.
  • Be proactive, not reactive.
  • Confidently provide a baseline for scope and schedule.
  • Document agreements for future reference.

A good project management methodology provides a framework with repeatable processes, guidelines, and techniques to greatly increase the odds of success, and therefore provides value to the project and the project manager. However, it should be understood up front that project management is not totally a science, and there is never a guarantee of success. Just the fact that a project manager is using a methodology increases the odds of project success.

Whether or not the methodology covers every possible situation, the bare minimum of processes a project manager must face includes the five Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) project phases. See process, procedure, and document examples in Table A.
Table A



Project


Phases




Definition


Of Phase




Process
(Examples)




Procedure(s)
(Examples)




Document(s)
(Examples)



Initiating


Authoring a project


Write charter
Obtain funding


Proposal development
Charter development


Proposal template
Charter template
Funding template


Planning


Defining and refining objectives and selecting the best course of action


Write project plan
Create WBS
Create schedule


Project plan
Development
schedule guidelines


Project plan
Template
tailoring worksheet
Communications plan
Risk identification form


Executing


Coordinating people and other resources to carry out project


Carry out project plan


Project team meetings
Performance reporting


Agenda
Minutes
Status reports


Controlling


Monitoring objectives and comparing them to baselines


Create change request


Change management


Change request form
Change impact form
Change control log


Closing


Formalizing acceptance of project


Close project


Administrative closure
Contract closure


Project closure checklist
Lessons learned template

Five PMKOB phases

The project manager should introduce the project management methodology early in the project. The project kick-off meeting is an excellent place to introduce and discuss the processes, procedures, and documents required in each phase. This early start will instill discipline and consistency in the team members, stakeholders, and customers. If the methodology is introduced any later in the project, team members may become confused or have to backtrack to ensure they’re completing the correct documentation. This would be a waste of time and effort!


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Every project manager wants to be personally successful and should want each and every team member to be successful. For more information about developing a system of policies and procedures that are at the heart of any project management methodology, refer to my four policy and procedures books.

Stephen B. Page, MBA, PMP, CSQE, is a project lead with Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, OH.

Originally published on gantthead July 18, 2002