We want to believe – in project management methodology

Taru Weckroth, Midagon Oy
Lähde: Midagon Oy

As sad as it sounds, I have been doing a lot of reading on project management methodologies over the holidays. They fascinate me in many ways. The implicit assumption is that even if you have very little project experience, you can get trained in a methodology – the distilled wisdom of highly experienced people – and then manage a project successfully. In effect, you could bypass years of practical experience.

One the other hand, I have painful memories from a week-long methodology training several years ago. I remember the pain of the experience, but practically nothing about the methodology – the teaching seemed far removed from the realities of the project life. What value I added at my project afterwards is best not discussed.

From yet another angle, project methodologies seem a kind of religion to certain people. I’ve seen people get very upset when their favourite way of working is challenged. I find it almost offensive intellectually when people state that you need to “just follow this procedure, it will work”. I want to understand how and why exactly. For now, I don’t think there is one methodology that has all the wisdom.

Having said that, there is a lot of wisdom in all of the methodologies, and it is well worth the time to study them, and to reflect back on the practical applications and experience. I have many practical experiences of projects that were particularly successful because we followed a certain best practice that suited the situation.

Some of the older and established methodologies, for instance PRINCE2, have recently been updated to work in agile environments. My impression so far is that these updates lead to a sort of hybrid methodology – some of the traditional controls and management direction is still there, while the teams work in agile mode. In certain parts, it seems that the agile is pasted on and may not stick, in others it seems a very sensible compromise. On the other hand, there is Scaled Agile Framework that is meant to work in a fully agile way for large projects and programs.

The facts on the ground suggest that project teams work in increasingly agile way in real life, but the management structures may lag behind. Our clients are often left in the no-man’s land of not fully agile, but not traditional either. Whatever project management methodology is used, it should support this way of working, add value and not become an obstacle.