A practical project methodology and project best practices are a minimum requirement for project success but not the key to success. The people are the key to success and a practical methodology considers this. A methodology is most useful when working on critical projects, or when you need to improve the general health and performance of the organization in running projects. But too often the methodology does little more than create burdensome paper work.
This practical project methodology is based on my experience and lessons learned from failures. A methodology should be simple like “adding eyes and ears to watch your back.” As trivial as it may sound, it can save the day.
A project is an ad-hoc organization with clear goals and accountability structure. The PM and Sponsor are ultimately accountable and must leverage the resources the organization has allocated and achieve the specific scope. We have project failure when the accountable individuals don’t have a simple methodology to follow. In many cases it fails from weak scope management which is a result of weak stakeholder management. In other cases it fails from PM’s getting overwhelmed from the tracking activities, managing communication and loosing the big picture (like missing the forest when looking for the tree).
However, I have seen projects where a complex methodology was followed by the book and still failed. It failed because the sponsor and PM failed to gather together a group of high energy, responsible people who could enforce the plan and oversee the daily activities. My experience is that the most important aspect for these people to be effective is the right combination of energy and responsibility. At this task, even someone fresh from university, but with the right biology can be a much better team member than an experienced person. As a closing point, making sure to involve the right persons in regards to the character traits is the first, and maybe most important, step to improve project performance.