Project Management Methodology

Projects are like a box of chocolates

How many of us remember the famous quote from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”? Being assigned a project is a little like that box of chocolates – you never know what you are getting until you take that first bite. A project is like taking that first bite of chocolate – unique, but having enough similarities to fit inside the chocolate box.

  • How do you determine the best methodology when you start a project?
  • Do you have a PMO that dictates the methodology?
  • Are you in a company that has adopted Agile as its methodology?
  • Are you using Waterfall?
  • Or, as the project manager, do you have the authority to determine the best methodology for the project based on its assigned team, scope, timeline and cost?

Like that box of chocolates, each project might be unique, but it still needs to work within an agreed upon methodology that is flexible enough to support small to large, complex projects. If the methodology cannot handle the flexibility, it needs to be re-evaluated to support all project types within the organization.

Create a project methodology that supports all project types by defining the critical project artifacts for each project type (e.g., small, medium, large). At the end of the project, perform an analysis of the project and determine what worked \ did not work, and adjust the project artifacts to suit the project.

How?

  1. Determine the methodology framework – Agile, Waterfall, WaterScrumFall (blend of Agile & Waterfall).
  2. Define what artifacts are needed for each project type – then map the processes using a tool such as Visio and share the process with others.
  3. Projects are more than producing documentation because that is what the PMO dictates – involve and evolve your PMO to a strategic partner.
  4. Provide feedback to continuously improve the process.

Projects are like those chocolates. We can savor each project’s unique flavor and make each a success if we follow a standardized approach that can also flex to support the uniqueness of each project. The approach should be like the chocolate box, able to accommodate each unique shape within a larger, coherent framework. Our job is to understand the uniqueness of the chocolate while appreciate the box in which it sits.

One Size Does Not Fit All

One size fits allHave you been to the mall and purchased a shirt that says “one size fits all” for the size?  While the shirt may fit some of us perfectly, it might be too large or too small for others.  The same goes for a project.  This “one size fits all” mentality for all projects can put your smaller projects at great risk by bogging them down in a project management methodology that is too rigorous for the size of these projects.

 So what can you do?

Establish a flexible project management methodology framework

  1. Define what a “small” and “large” project is in your organization (e.g., a small project can be between 6 – 12 weeks and a large project is anything greater than 12 weeks)
  2. Identify the deliverables or documents needed for each project type
  3. Monitor smaller projects to validate the success/failure rate of these projects and adjust the deliverables within the framework as necessary

The key point to remember is that the project management methodology is a framework for all projects, not a straitjacket.  The framework needs flexibility to support all projects, no matter their size, while producing results.

One size really does not fit all, so find the size that fits your needs to successfully manage your small project.

When I grow up…a project manager’s path to the future

when you grow upWhen you were young, I bet you said “I want to be a project manager when I grow up!”

Probably not, since most of us plunged into project management the old fashion way – by accident. Someone probably approached you and said, “I want you to manage this project.” I bet you scratched your head and thought, “Ok, what next?”

Typically, companies don’t have career paths for project managers.  Project management is generally not seen as a core competency, so  career paths or training aren’t a priority. This reality leaves the project manager frustrated as their career seems to stall.

Another career conundrum: who wants a “new” project manager running the project? How else can project managers learn and gain experience? They can be mentored by a more experienced project manager, but mentorship is an area lacking in most organizations.

So what do we do? Here are some suggestions.

First, identify what your company CAN do to continue your growth as a project manager:

  • Work with your human resources department to create a career path, including continuing education and certification
  • Expand your sphere of impact by implementing project management methodologies, processes, and governance mechanisms to improve productivity across your company
  • Create a mentorship program. While we share some skill sets that make us good project managers, we can still learn from one another

Second, identify what YOU can do to continue your growth outside of work. Remember, it is our responsibility as project managers to continuously learn and apply this knowledge to our projects. Take charge of your growth as a project manager!

  • Join professional organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI) which, through local chapters, communities of practice and other events, provides additional learning opportunities and certifications branching across the project management universe
  • Think outside the box and identify other opportunities, such as mentoring, to learn and grow as a project manager

Companies want to hire the best talent, but like other professions the company and the project managers need to share in their career growth and development. This is a win-win all around for the company and the project manager.

So back to my question, what do you want to be when you grow up? Me, I want to be a Project Manager.

Are you ready for Agile?

agileMany companies are moving from the traditional Waterfall project management methodology to Agile.  Why?  Agile fits today’s fast-paced organizations and allows them to easily adapt their project portfolios as business priorities change.  It also allows organizations to better respond to customer needs and stay competitive.

If you are ready, here are five tips for transitioning to Agile:

1.  Perform a readiness assessment of the organization

  • Determine if your organization is ready for Agile
  • Ensure the organization understands how Agile works

2.  Educate the team and the organization about Agile

  • Define roles and responsibilities of the Agile team
  • Train the team on their roles and responsibilities

3.  Provide decision-making authority to the Agile team

  • Ensure the team has the authority and decision-making ability
  • Ensure that team members feel capable to step into decision-making roles
  • Guarantee management support

4.  Start with a pilot project

  • Identify a project
  • Set up the team infrastructure

5.  Have an Agile Evangelist

  • Support the Agile team (and organization)
  • Provide recommendations to the team

Many companies try to jump into agile, get frustrated, and run-away from the experience.   It takes thought and preparation to make the transition a successful one.  Agile just doesn’t happen.  You have to make it happen.  But the rewards are worth the journey.

The Road to Social Media for Project Communications

yellow_brick_roadRemember when Dorothy arrived in the Land of Oz?

She was faced with a new environment, far different from Kansas, and the change was extraordinary for her. To go home, she was told to follow the Yellow Brick road to the Emerald City. Faced with no way to communicate or even know where she was going except to follow the Yellow Brick road, Dorothy began her journey. Along the way she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion, all with specialized knowledge, to help her along her journey. They stumble along at times, sometimes due to lack of information or unexpected situations, like when the Tin Man needed additional oil to keep his joints from freezing up.

So what does this have to do with project communications? Over the past few years, many social media tools have jockeyed for favor amongst the business community to provide “information” to the masses. But in today’s world, how can you know, as a project manager, what are the best tools for project communication, other than traditional email to send a status report? How do you know that your status report has been read and clearly understood by your Project Sponsor, Stakeholders and your project team?

Are you willing to try something new? Are you willing to travel down the Yellow Brick road and see how social media tools can improve your project communications and reach your Project Sponsor, Stakeholders and project team? Are you willing to let your project team provide updates via social media channels? Are you ready for the Yellow Brick road to something new and exciting, or do you want the Wicked Witch of the West blocking your communication withflying monkeys spreading inaccurate information about the project? Remember your companions on your trip down the Yellow Brick road – the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion? Leverage them to your advantage. They are the brains, heart and courage, and as project champions can enhance your communications across the project’s social media channels and help block the flying monkeys.

With so many social media tools at our fingertips, how do you choose which is best? That decision is up to you, based on your audience and what you want to communicate, but there are many innovative options for collaboration. Many of us use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and there are options to use these tools internally. Additionally, there are tools like Yammer, LinkedIn and SharePoint that allow you to have internal “communities” to get your message out.

But are they secure, you might ask? Of course! Using tools like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn – they are all secure channels of communication.

So as you begin your journey down the Yellow Brick road with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, work with your project team and identify the tools you think will provide you the best channels of communication. They may not be perfect out of the gate, but the only way to know is to start and continuously improve your use of the tools through your project. Remember that the Yellow Brick road was fraught with danger – but Dorothy successfully made it to the Emerald City – and you can too.