top menu

Project Methodology Options

One Methodology Doesn’t Fit All Projects; You Need a Scalable Project Methodology

project risk managementProject management options are available but too often organizations get carried away with developing their own project methodology. They want everyone to use the most advanced project management techniques. And they think it is necessary to apply every detail in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI)® Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)® to every project. That’s only right for really big and expensive projects; what we call Tier #3 projects. For the other 99% of the organization’s projects, all those techniques cost more than they are worth and generate too much valueless paperwork.  When organizations try to apply a Tier #3 methodology to all their projects, they overload smaller projects with pointless paperwork. This paperwork jungle bogs down project managers and their teams. The extra paperwork, procedures and meetings take so much time that the project managers don’t do the paperwork. Or they change a couple of words from an earlier project and submit the same forms.  The result is no control and poor project results. The organization can’t prioritize its projects. Without priorities, it can’t allocate resources wisely.  And it can’t keep track of all the projects and their current status. In other words, it has no organizational project process.

Scalable Project MethodologyAnother result of this approach is that the organization can’t control initiation of new projects. People don’t want to do all the paperwork to get a small project approved. So there are a lot of underground projects that are called something else, like “initiatives.” Additionally, there are other people who simply start new projects and ignore the organizational approval process. The result is that there is no control over project initiation and a lot of resources are wasted.   AdPM Project Methodology

The scalable project methodology is the way you can solve all these problems. It recognizes that small projects only need a bit of project management process.  As the projects increase in size, you will add tools and techniques to control larger projects. A scalable project methodology actually saves project managers time so they will comply with the process. That will produce better data you can use to allocate resources to the right projects. How Project Methodology Evolves

 Project Methodology Options for Three Sizes of Projects

A scalable project methodology can be tailored to meet the needs of each project; small, medium or larger. That is the formula for solid control and success across the entire portfolio of projects. Let’s look at the three levels of our scalable project methodology

Scalable Project Methodology Option: Tier #1

The first level of our scalable project methodology covers about 60% of the projects in most organizations. The team is usually less that 10 people and they all work in the same department or functional area. On those small projects, your scope statement, requirements and charter shouldn’t be complicated. This is called the Broadbrush plan. There is one project sponsor and you document the business value they want and the major constraints. Most importantly, the Broadbrush plan lets you break down the project scope into assignments for the team members. These assignments include clear performance expectations. They allow you and the team member to make accurate estimates of work and duration for the schedule.  You use the Broadbrush plan and the estimates to develop a dynamic, resource-driven schedule. Basic Project Methodology Video

The weekly status reports from the team let you spot problems early when you can fix them. You’ll be able to keep your project schedule updated in 10 minutes a week using project scheduling software.  This Tier #1 methodology meets the organization’s requirements for setting priorities and allocating resources.

These Tier #1 techniques have limitations, however. As the scope of projects increases and the size of the teams reach double digits, you have to move up to the next tier in the scalable project methodology.

Scalable Project Methodology Option: Tier #2

Projects are a little larger in the next tier of our scalable project methodology. The team size ranges from 7 – 15 people and you need to borrow resources from across functional areas. Instead of a single sponsor, you have multiple sponsors/stakeholders to satisfy and manage.  You must add more sophisticated techniques to your scope and requirements gathering. You focus on each business-relevant outcome and a network of achievements leading to it.  That will let you control scope creep. Lean Project Management Methodology

You are usually borrowing people from multiple departments and hiring contractors.  So your authority issues and priorities are trickier. These projects involve more dollars and hours than Tier #1 so you will use more elaborate estimating processes for work, duration and cost. The scheduling is more complex so you add optimization techniques to ensure you are using your resources efficiently to finish as early as possible. You also need to develop high levels of commitment to the project’s time frames and deliverables.  Gaining that commitment is more difficult when your team members are borrowed from other areas and you aren’t their “real” boss.  So you need to more actively manage the team culture.

Last, Tier #2 projects have greater risk and higher stakes so you need to do risk management. You will probably limit the analysis to inexpensive techniques for qualitative risk assessment.  Then you focus your risk management on planning the risk responses and mitigation strategies to avoid the consequences.

Scalable Project Methodology Option: Tier #3

When you manage large strategic initiatives or major projects for clients you need to add Tier #3-level techniques to your scalable project methodology. With these techniques, you will align the project with the organization’s strategy and go through an extensive scope and requirements process. You will do a detailed cost/benefit analysis and feasibility studies.  Then you will break down the scope into measurable/verifiable outcomes that you’ll use as the basis for estimating and team assignments. You need to make sure everyone knows exactly what business result the project is targeting and what is explicitly excluded from the project. You must define success quantitatively and measure it at each stage in the project’s lifecycle. Additionally, your risk analysis is more elaborate with statistical assessment of the risk’s impacts.

The project team has an organization structure.  As the project manager, you must have assignment and reward authorities for contractors and team members borrowed from other departments.  To create a high-performance team culture, you need a shared objective and commitment. This requires the use of psychological techniques far beyond a slogan and t-shirts.

Summary: Scalable Project Methodology Options Without all the Paperwork 

There are significant benefits to using a scalable project methodology for your organizational project protocol. You can expand and contract to fit the size of your projects – small, medium and large.  It is wise to start with a simple protocol that actually saves project managers time.  That’s how you get compliance and improve your organization’s project performance. Our project methodology has 3 tiers of techniques for managing projects as they increase in size and complexity.

We offer books and courses that teach our scalable project methodology at each of these levels of project management.  We also provide consulting services to help you implement a consistent, scalable methodology in your organization. Contact us at 303-596-0000.

2 Responses to Project Methodology Options

  1. Louis July 1, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    The scalable project methodologies concept is a good idea. Is there a rule of thumb for determining the size of a project to categorize it as small, medium or large? The number of months duration? The number of people working on it? The budget?

    • Dick Billows, PMP July 2, 2013 at 10:31 am #

      What we do with our clients is to use the number of hours of work on the project as the basis for using one of the different methodologies. We look at the full inventory of projects and slice it up so that under 100 hours is the puppy methodology, 100-250 hours is the porpoise methodology and over 250 person hours is the pachyderm. But that is just an example and you need to look at the distribution of project size.


Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes