“So, how do you run projects around here?” – that is one of the first questions you are likely to ask when joining a new organisation. If you are in an organisation with high project management maturity it is probable that others will mention the “methodology” to you. Indeed, consulting the established methodology is the right bet since that is what it is intended to do – provide guidance to anyone on the organisation on how projects are understood and managed and the related processes and procedures that are specific to their ways of working.

What is a project methodology?

The standardisation of processes and procedures is based on a critical need – to stop you from reinventing the wheel and, thus, save you time and energy, among other resources. Moreover, the existence of a methodology in the organisation provides and promotes a common terminology and vocabulary to discuss and apply project management in practice, it removes ambiguity and constitutes a factor of internal stability guiding the modus operandi when in a project context.

A common methodology enables a better understanding between stakeholders in projects, as well as it facilitates communication between the various governance bodies with the fundamental objective of maximising the probability of success of the project.

A methodology provides answers to the following types of questions:

  • What is expected of me as a Project Manager in this organisation?
  • What is the understanding of a project here?
  • Are all projects managed in the same way?
  • What resources are available and where can I find them?
  • Which processes are mandatory and which are flexible?
  • Who do I need to consult and who signs-off the project stages?
  • Where can I get support for my project?

How to introduce it to your organisation?

The project management methodology is usually initiated by a PMO or similar enabling function and it should be based on recognised best practices while also tailored to your specific context and needs. Thus, many organisations start by adopting PRINCE2® and similar methods and making adjustments where relevant. In fact, recognising that project management is contextual, the tailoring of the methodology is a principle of this methodology itself. Make no mistake: best-fit practices are more important than best-practices!

What to include in a project methodology?

While a methodology should be comprehensive and detailed enough to offer useful practical guidance to practitioners, it is not intended to present an exhaustive detail of all project management processes, techniques and tools, nor of behavioural aspects that should govern the project management profession. Simply put, it is not a project management training course, it does not replace the knowledge gained through experience and it can be complemented with guidance available elsewhere in the organisation (e.g. financial guidance) as required. It should clarify responsibilities, inform of additional support available and reference other resources, templates or examples of what good looks like.

At the end of the day, be mindful that methodologies are enablers, not an end on their own. Please don’t become a methodologist and focus instead on the main goal of having one: better practices, rather than better processes!