Unpacking methodologies in project management

Johannesburg, 27 Oct 2016

Think of project management (PM) methodologies as blueprints; step-by-step instructions that guide your team on how to build a successful project. With so many different approaches to managing the complexities of any given program, how can you know which one is right for your project, team or organisation?

A properly defined and strictly followed project management methodology can help guarantee project success, the same way a complex and misused methodology can lead to project failure. For most people, identifying or generating a methodology is wrought with stress and anxiety. Finding a methodology and scaling it to suit your project needs is seen as an overwhelming task. Though, this doesn't have to be true.

In simple terms, PM methodology is a straightforward way to guide the team through the development and execution of the phases, processes and tasks throughout the project management life-cycle. "Methodologies are ultimately about facilitating quality decisions. It's about defining what work needs to be done and what information you need in order to reach a solid and accurate decision about a particular project. When you can break it down in the right way, employing a methodology can be liberating." explains Barend Cronje, CEO of CoLAB.

Methodology in project management

It was around the 1950s where companies started developing project management techniques to make managing large engineering and construction projects more streamlined. Many core engineering fields needed to be brought together into one project, so it started to become necessary for one unifying methodology to cover all the different disciplines. Originally, project management as a discipline only applied to these types of engineering projects, but now the methodologies are used across a wide range of industries and teams.

Regardless of which field or which trade, there are assortments of methodologies to help managers at every stage of a project; from the initiation, to implementation, to the closure. There are different project management methodologies to benefit different projects. For example, there is a specific methodology, which Nasa uses to build a space station while the Navy employs a different methodology to build submarines. Hence, there are different project management methodologies that cater to the needs of different projects spanned across different business domains.

Ultimately, though, the purpose of project methodology is to control the management process through effective decision-making and problem solving; while ensuring the success of specific processes, approaches, techniques, methods and technologies.

"It's important to settle on what decisions you need to reach in order for the methodology to work. This may be to decide on terminating the project, or it may be to decide on investing a great deal more in the project's success. To make any decision, you need information. Your first task will be to identify the minimum amount of information you need to reach an informed choice. The simpler your requirements, the simpler the methodology; and the more chance it has at successfully shaping your project. Ask yourself why you need certain information to make the decision; if you can't find a solid answer quickly, chances are you don't need it. Don't make more work for yourself than you need to. Once you have a clear idea of your decision goals, the next task is to outline what work needs to be done in order to gather this information," says Cronje.

When it comes to designing, planning and implementing a methodology the number one rule is: keep it simple. "The biggest barrier to adoption of methodology in business relates to a company's capability maturity. The slowest buffalo determines the speed of the herd; so it's imperative for an organisation to employ a methodology that caters for the lowest common denominator. This way you have a stretch goal but still ensure everybody crosses the finish line in good time. What constrains an environment is when you over-design and burden an environment with process, or governance," explains Cronje.

Choosing a methodology for your business

In project management there are a variety of existing approaches and methods that can be employed. "When it comes to employing a methodology, don't re-invent the wheel; make use of the existing tried and tested methods already crafted through years of industry experience. The purpose is not to replicate information that is already adopted in the business; but to inform, equip and empower business owners and service professionals about how to put the right methodology to use, to sustain and grow their business," says Cronje.

Though each methodology has their own advantages, they may not apply to the projects your team is currently working on. It's wise to thoroughly review each methodology to see if it fits with your project. Keep in mind that you can always adapt your team's workflow process if it doesn't perfectly match up. That way, you maximise effectiveness of the project management methodology.



CoLAB is a diverse project implementation consultancy offering maximum project success for every client. Its approach is strongly characterised by delivery, simplicity and accountability. Its philosophy is to provide immediate operational benefits, whilst balancing longer-term sustainability through progressive elaboration. CoLAB uses a set of ever-growing and maturing integrated delivery frameworks to enhance client-required solutions. It is known as a market leader for its innovative contributions. It strongly subscribes to the integration of components required for an effective operational capability.

Editorial contacts

Jain Mc Guigan
Refract Marketing
(+27) 11 887 8559