Beyond Methodology
(By Stephen Law)

I was a Wing Chun martial art instructor. When asked what martial arts I used to stop my opponent, I would tell you Wing Chun. In reality, it could be a combination of Wing Chun, Tae Kwon Do and Judo. I said it was Wing Chun because commercially I was under the brand name of Wing Chun to perform such an event. Similarly, when you asked your Agile consultants about how to deal with certain project situations, everything they said would be Agile since commercially they were under the Agile brand name to position themselves as the experts.

Despite the amount of focus user group surveys, subject matter expert collaboration, and thoughtful process analysis, there will never be a single, perfect methodology for getting work done. It’s natural for project managers and teams to use a combination of processes and templates from multiple methodologies, such as PMBOK, Scrum, Lean, and Six Sigma. The following is the explanation:

Methodology is not a silver bullet

A methodology is merely a tool in a team’s toolkit to guide them to a successful outcome. The team delivers the project using methodology as a guideline. Effective teams still need strong leadership, project management, and clear communication to deliver. The best methodology in the world won’t help a struggling team from failing; it will help them fail according to the standards. This is why effective teams know to pick the best tool for the job, independent of prescribed methodologies.

Projects don’t always follow a predictable path

A project is not a production assembly line. Methodologies are developed to provide guidance to produce a predictable result. However, few projects follow a predictable path.

When you start working on a project, it’s likely that there is a methodology to follow. Yet, the journey to get there won’t always be predictable. No two projects are the same; the people, environment, project constraints, and potential risks will be different. The key is adaptation and adjustment. This also means adjusting the methodology.

People deliver projects, not methodologies

We staff projects with talented people to leverage their professional experience and ensure project success.

I’ve met several certified PMPs, Black Belts, and Scrum Masters who shouldn’t ever lead or manage a project. They may be experts in a methodology, but they lack professional experience and subject matter context, so the chance of project success is lower.

Timely data is needed to judge the actual situation during project execution

Just like playing martial arts, even if you know a lot of moves, you still need to accurately judge in real time to know which moves are the best. If there is no accurate real-time data for project execution, any methodology is likely to fail, because driving with eyes closed, and no accidents are all flukes.

There are not many tools on the market that can provide real-time accurate data, PPM is one of them.

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