It’s Not About the Methodology

David Shirey
May 15, 2018 · 2 min read

I know. Everyone says you have to have a robust methodology the size of the Rock of Gibraltar in place before you embark on project management. But as Harry Morgan, as Col Sherman Potter, said in a number of MASH episodes — ‘Horse Hockey’.

Oh, you need a methodology all right and it’s better to have a good one than a piece of junk, but by itself, the methodology does not define Project Management and what it can do. And it certainly doesn’t guarantee success.

Look, it’s like this. Suppose you want to be a very good driver. Well then you are going to need a car. And if the car is in good working order and has all leather seats and a swwweeeeetttttt sound system, that’s a plus. But just having a car does not make you a good driver. Know what I mean, Vern?

So, if the Methodology is not the prima donna here, what is it’s role?

A Methodology is a conduit. It is sort of like an advertisement for the project, something that helps people see what the project is about, where we are in the process, and what needs to be done next. And that’s important.

But people forget that, like the car, a Methodology is just a tool, something to help you reach your goal.

Believe me, I have seen plenty of Methodologies. And most of them had one thing in common. They were designed to answer every question, fit every situation, cover every possible eventuality so that even an idiot could use it to bring a project in on time and on budget.

The end result of this type of Methodology is something so bloated that it starts to get in the way of accomplishing real work. And often, it becomes the end in itself so that satisfying the Methodology becomes more important than actually accomplishing the project.

So what am I recommending?

First, take it easy when adopting a Methodology. In the end, you still have to rely on the capabilities of your Project Manager and the Project Team. Yes, you are going to need a structure, and you want one that is effective, but don’t go crazy. I have seen places spend more time developing their Methodology than they have doing their projects.

Second, look at the Methodology carefully and identify all of the points where it gets in the way of the team taking action. Rework those points to sand down the edges.

Third, put your focus on putting together a good team; a flexible, think on their feet, respond to the situation team. And don’t get so caught up in Methodology Madness.

To borrow a Biblical metaphor without being blasphemous, the methodology was made for man, not man for the methodology. Being kind to those in need trumps a ceremony. And getting things done on time and budget trumps a thick binder of forms.

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