How do we define a project management methodology?

Project Management Methodology

Since 2007, we have advocated the necessity for organizations to develop or adopt a project management methodological approach. A project management methodology that is an essential component of the organizational project management system. Further, we often hear about predictive versus adaptive project management methods. We read the debates on Waterfall versus Agile. Some practitioners debate these topics, and Agilists argue that Agile is better than Waterfall. However, these professionals do not recognize that neither Agile nor Waterfall are project management methodologies. Therefore, a set of relevant questions we often hear is:

How do we define a Project Management Methodology?

Is the definition limited to a project life cycle, or are there other factors and considerations?

The Root Cause

These are interesting questions.

I know that we have addressed these relevant questions in past blog articles. We even have a series of videos on the subject. Further, we wrote more than one book on this subject; the most relevant is Project Management Beyond Waterfall and Agile.

Here is the root cause of the confusion.

As project management practitioners, we do n ot often agree on a project’s definition. Further, we lost the perspective that project management has always been or should be adaptive. Therefore,  new inventions including adaptive, predictive, agile, and waterfall methods, do not add any value. Unfortunately, we think what is driving these terms is the drive to sell certifications. I have lost count of how many agile “methods” and certifications are out in the market.

Why is it challenging to define “project”?

Many professional associations have defined the term “project.” The challenge is the desire to keep the definition short, like one sentence. As a result, practitioners end up with different interpretations and choose what suits them.

For example, 

Is construction work a project or a phase?
Is the software development work a project or a phase?
How about cooking dinner for your family, is it a project or a task?

We can debate these various questions,  which means trying to force a unique answer. 

We choose an alternative route: accepting that the definition is situational, hence the need to define it, at least in the UrukPM context.

What is the definition of a project?

Here are the general points we use to define a project:

A project could be anything we create from scratch or a significant modification to an existing system, which would require substantial effort in terms of development and delivery. In other words,

A project is a change initiative.

A project has a specific product (output), objectives (outcome), defined timeline (schedule), budget, and various other parameters (resources, quality, risks, etc.).
It is an investment of time and money to deliver a product or service (output), and it must provide the capabilities to realized benefits (outcome).

It must deliver value

The project owner (organization) can verify and accept the output at completion and closeout but often cannot validate the outcome until months or years after the end of the physical work.
A project can be independent or part of a program. If it is part of a program, it must align with the program objective, which, in turn, must align with the organizational strategic direction. On the other hand, if the project is independent of a program, it must directly align with the organizational strategic direction.

This definition is from Mounir’s Leading Megaprojects, A Tailored Approach.

What is not a project?

These are the things that we do not consider a project.

A routine task that can be accomplished in hours or days by one or more people
A phase or stage of the project (a piece of it, usually along the project life cycle)
A sub-project (also a piece of a project, could be different parts or sections of a facility)
A program or a portfolio

So, is cooking dinner a project?

Theoretically, the answer could be yes if we limit the definition to output and ignore the other factors, such as outcome, objectives, significant effort to plan and implement, often a one-person job, etc.

Anyway, it is up to you to define a project is for YOU. However, if you do not want to be trivial,  we recommend another look at our definition.

What is a project management methodology?

For convenience, we might be using the terms method and methodology interchangeably. Click here for an explanation of the differences.

To answer this question, first, we need to offer a few clarifications. Therefore, separate the concept of a Project Management Method from Stage Management or a method that can be used on projects. Let me clarify:

EVM (Earned Value Management) is a process (method or technique) that we can use on projects.
CPM (Critical Path Method) is also a method that practitioners can use on projects.
However, neither is a project management method (a method that can be used to manage the whole project).
The same thinking applies to Agile. 

Therefore, just because we use a method or technique on projects does not mean the method is a project management method, per our definition. 

In our definition:

A project management method is about managing the entire value delivery life cycle!

Finally, on this point, a few more thoughts: we use leadership skills on projects. We use financial modeling, market research, business analysis, engineering, programming, etc. Just because we use these on projects does not make them project management methods.

So, what makes a method a Project Management Method?

With the above background and context, here is what we believe are the six components of a project management method or methodological approach.

We share our views via this video. However, we list the six components here:

A project life cycle covering the entire value delivery life cycle
Phases and stages
Stage management processes
Stage deliverables (output)
Stage gates (decision points)
Various supporting actions (functions) like scope, cost, and risk management.

Project Management Methodology, an Example

It is well known that SUKAD (the UrukPM predecessor) developed CAMMP, The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™. There are other project management methods in the market. The image here, which shows the CAMMP Standard Model.

This next image, is in line with the previous image but includes iterative or incremental development (Agile Development).

It is worth noting that one of the reasons for launching Uruk PM to replace SUKAD was to develop the Uruk Platform, a digital solution that uses CAMMP as the foundation for the project management element.

Closing Comments

What triggered this post is the numerous discussions on “Agile Project Management” and whether Agile, AgilePM, Disciplined Agile, SAFe, and other concepts are project management methods. 

We documented our views at length in various videos, articles, and books. We summarized our views in this article and offered numerous links to other resources. 

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