How to choose the right PM Method

By: Scott Major
Senior Project Controls Specialist

We've all heard the cliché of insanity being the practice of doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Though overused, it is often applicable and that is especially true in project management. How often have you been part of a team or an organization that has done something because it has always been done that way, knowing that the results or process to produce the results were less than desirable. Often our application of a project management methodology is a great example of insanity. Today, the most commonly discussed project management methods are traditional and agile. But what if we keep applying the wrong methodology for the project?

To determine which methodology will work best for your project, consider these 4 questions.

  1. Do stakeholders and the project team have a good understanding of what is to be produced to meet requirements?
  2. Do stakeholders and the project team have a good understanding of the execution process to meet requirements
  3. Are stakeholders focused upon you providing a step by step projection and status of this endeavor?
  4. Do stakeholders perceive the scope, schedule and budget to be known and reasonably constrained?

If you answered YES to all of these then a traditional project management methodology is generally better suited for your project or endeavor. However, if you answered NO to these questions then an agile project management methodology may be a better fit. If your answers were a mix of yes and no, or if you struggled to answer the questions, then the best fit is not as straight forward.

If you were building a fence at your house, you likely could have answered yes to all of those questions and so a traditional project management methodology would be a good fit. However, if your task was to remodel your kitchen then you could have easily answered no to the above questions, even though I'm sure every family would want to know exactly how long and how much a kitchen remodel might cost.

One of the big differences is understanding what we know and what we don't know. Agile project management attempts to bring order to the chaos of not knowing. Traditional project management is fundamentally rooted in the assumption that we know what we are going to do before we do it. Sure, change is expected and provision in traditional project management exists for it, but change is embraced by agile concepts.

Neither methodology is better than the other. These methodologies are simply tools for project managers to use and to fit best to each unique project. A butter knife is a fantastic tool for applying butter to bread, but you wouldn't use it to cut down a tree.

Starting this year, we should all make a resolution to apply the right methods to the right projects regardless if that is how we've always done it.


About the Author

Scott has more than 10 years of project management and project controls experience across healthcare, government, construction, and manufacturing. He has served as both the Director and Vice President of Professional Development at the Project Management Institute's East Tennessee chapter. His advocacy for, and alignment to, the Project Management Institute's standards has aided him in the successful delivery of various traditional and agile projects. Scott also uses background in engineering and process-oriented approach to navigate the challenges of today's complex programs and projects. Scott has extensive project controls experience and is a leader on our healthcare team in the effective execution and management of information technology projects.

Scott Major is a Senior Project Controls Specialist at Management Solutions. He joined the MSLLC team in 2009.

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