Method melding: The modern melting pot of project management

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practice management

Add a smidgen of Agile, dust with a hint of Waterfall, and add a large dollop of Scrum, and you’ve got a modern project. In years past, you would have had to choose a single methodology to get a project done, but increasingly in today’s world, you can select additional project methodologies that will help you get the job done better.

There is nothing wrong with using a single project management methodology. However, projects come in different shapes, sizes, and requirements — one size does not fit all. Today’s projects can be complex and multifaceted, and to effectively manage a project today, you need to be flexible in your approach, abandoning the linear inflexible methods. You also need to do simultaneous planning with a flat hierarchy and create your own customized, but effective blend of project management. Such a flexible methodology can meld new innovative methods with old, trusted processes, combining them into new mixtures.

Why meld methods?

By combining project management methodologies, you can create your own unique methodology that is bespoke to your organization, your project team, and your project. Such a tailored solution can help in many other ways as well, such as:

  • Make your project team successful — Methodologies do not deliver projects; people do. A methodology is only a tool, not a silver bullet. Combining methodologies that compliment your project team can make it more likely your project will succeed. Also, project teams vary in size, experience, and availability. Make the methodologies work for your team; don’t make your teams work for the methodology.
  • Projects aren’t predictable — Projects don’t always go as expected. You will have to adjust and adapt your project to meet unexpected challenges. Instead of sticking with the same methodology, adopt a strategy from another methodology that could help your project get back on track.
  • Typically, no two projects are the same — You can’t use the same methodology over and over again — each project is different. Requirements, people, budget, risks, constraints, and the environment will always be different. Part of the initial planning process should include a review of methods that could benefit your project.
  • Avoid the dogma & keep your best practices fresh — In some organizations, there may be no project flexibility. You must use and follow the project methodology prescribed by your organization. Mismatched projects in such an environment will either fail or the project team may furtively adopt a secondary methodology to achieve success. Using the same methodology for all projects is a recipe for failure, not consistency. Methodology choices should be made available by the organization and kept up to date with documentation and training to ensure that best practices are also kept up to date. Your project teams should be encouraged to use the methodologies and tools that best fit their projects.
  • Not a waste of time — When a project uses a methodology that doesn’t work, team members start “skipping all that process stuff” because it is viewed as a waste of time. This is a sure recipe for project failure. However, if you find the right mixture of project methodologies, the processes can work more effectively and will not be viewed as a waste of time.
  • Turn a troubled project aroundSometimes, a project starts failing. Re-evaluate your methodology to determine if a new or additional methodology might help. Sometimes, the fresh perspective that the application of a new methodology can bring to a failing project can help turn things around.

How to mix your methods

Applying multiple methodologies to a project requires an excellent working knowledge of each methodology and what questions to ask yourself. This will take time, effort, and training. Below are a few suggested questions to help you determine which project management methodology is best for your project:

  • What are the methodologies? — Study and learn which methodology to use and why you should use them. Stay current on emerging trends and their advantages and disadvantages.
  • What delivers the most value? — List what your project stakeholders need and choose a methodology that focuses on that need. For example, if stakeholders are likely to be making constant updates and changes to the requirements, then select a methodology with short and iterative cycles. This flexible feature will quickly deliver value to the stakeholders.
  • What meets your firm’s goals? — Keep any overall organizational goals in mind as well. Your methodologies should support your firm’s goals.
  • What fits your team? — As mentioned earlier, methodologies do not deliver projects; people do. Be realistic about your project and your project team. The methodologies you choose must fit well with your team’s experience, values, strengths, weaknesses, and time available.
  • What favors practice, not theory? — Make sure your choice of methodologies is grounded in what your team can actually do and not in some theoretical possibility of work that may never be realized. Keep it real, and it will be sucessful.
  • What matches the size & complexity of your project?Is your project small or large? Is it simple and straight-forward, or is it complex? Choose methodologies that are sized for your project. You might be able to apply the best of “small project” methodologies to parts of your larger project.
  • Do you need flexibility or structure? — Are you in a dynamic project where requirements change constantly, or are your requirements set? Different methodologies can provide structure or agility.
  • What’s your appetite for risk? — Review the constraints and risks of your project before you choose another methodology. For example, an Agile methodology will provide more flexibility, but it might allow more risk than you may wish to have.
  • What software tool works best? Methodologies don’t dictate what software tools to use, but project management software will dictate what methodologies they support. Every organization has different tools available, and this may have an impact on what methodologies you can support. Learn what your organization has available and how it matches your needs.

Conclusion

There will always be arguments about which project management approach is best. However, there does not have to be a best. Organizations and project teams are moving towards using multiple project methodologies for the same project. This “pick and choose” approach gives the best of all worlds and can help deliver successful projects. The one-size-fits-all strategy of project management is extinct.


See Addendum: Meet the methodologies for more information.