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The Forgotten Role of Methodology in Project Management


Listen folks, this really doesn’t need to be as confusing as it first appears to be.  I was certain that I knew what I wanted to present here, that was until I performed an internet search on, “project management methodology.”  The results were like a giant mind eraser that obscured this simple concept with the most divergent set of topics you would ever hope to see.  One thing is for sure, methodologies abound! Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, Six Sigma… you know the list. 

OK, I get it. Methodology - A system of broad principles or rules from which specific methods or procedures may be derived to interpret or solve different problems within the scope of a particular discipline.  Yawn!

Have you ever watched Simon Sinek’s presentation on How great leaders inspire action on TED?  19 million viewers have since it was posted in 2009.  It was based on the concept, “Start with Why.”  If you’re not familiar with the talk, it presents the idea that a core set of principles and beliefs, in other words “Why” you do something is far more important than “How” or “What” you do.  Watch the talk; you’ll be a believer in 18 minutes.  Remember that by the time you get to “Why” things are getting personal.  Let me ask you a question, “Would you say that Agile is Why you manage a project or is it How you manage a project?  Obviously it is How, but now we are getting at the crux of the issue that is causing confusion, at least in my mind.  We have methodologies for How we manage projects, but very little to explain or provide structure around Why we take the actions and make the decisions that are required to actually manage projects.

I would never argue that methodologies for How to manage projects aren’t needed; quite the opposite really.  But in order to develop as a project manager, or have a team of project managers rise to the same level of extraordinary performance, there needs to be a unifying methodology that is personal.  Something that drives, governs, or explains Why you are making the decisions that you are.  Why would you want to simply mimic the actions of highly successful project managers, using How-based methodologies, when you could adopt and learn to think like highly successful project managers regardless of what How-based methodology you decide to use?  That’s right, “Start with Why.”

At the heart of Bare Knuckled Project Management; how to succeed at every project (BKPM) is a Why-based methodology. It is somewhat unique in that it contains principles, tips, and tricks that can actually change the way you personally make decisions. The principles are sound, one could argue innovative, and they can be used like personal training coaches to help you make the decisions needed to properly manage projects.  Pay attention to your coaches and based on the principles of neuroplasticity, you begin to re-wire how you view project decisions.  It is absolutely liberating!  Imagine the upper-hand you develop when you aren’t just going through the motions of implementing a How-based methodology, but are truly in control of each decision point in a project.  Now imagine working with a whole team of PMs that think and act at the same level or proficiency and for the same enlightened reasons.  This level of project management control can be absolutely intoxicating!

So then, the forgotten role of methodology in project management is found in how it affects you. Not a system of broad principles or rules that tell you how to manage projects, but rather help you with Why you need to take specific steps or make specific decisions in the first place. Why aren’t there more methodologies that help make you, personally, a better project manager regardless of the How-based processes you implement? Quite honestly, I’m not sure.  I know that it took a lot of time, effort, money and discipline to be able to codify the highly effective project management decision making principles contained in BKPM.  Some of the principles we present, like the 3-sided table, are truly unique when compared to the conventional teachings of project management. My one word of advice is to never forget about the impact that you have on project management.  Once you understand, and perhaps can even refine, Why you make project management decisions, you will find that you have a much greater level of control than you ever thought possible.

posted Jun 27, 2017 by Jeff Welch

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