Project Management Requires A Road Map
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"Having a Project Management system without a methodology is like
attaching a speedometer to an orange crate; it measures nothing."
- Bryce's Law
The principles of Project Management have been with us for a long time. There
has also been a number of Project Management software packages introduced over
the years, beginning with mainframe based commercial packages introduced back in
the early 1970's. Some of it has been quite good, others are based on sheer
quackery. Some people naively buy such packages in the hopes they will be some
sort of panacea to cure all project woes; that projects will start to come in on
time and on budget simply because a certain tool was purchased. Inevitably, they
are puzzled when projects still go awry even with the latest software. I believe
there are three reasons for this:
- Companies are blinded by technology and fail to recognize the human
dynamics involved with Project Management. Instead of working with people to
successfully achieve their project assignments, they rely totally on numbers
- Companies fail to consider the total processes involved in Project
Management and tend to attack it in piecemeal. For example, there are
interdependencies between planning, estimating, scheduling, reporting, and
control. Attacking only one of these problems will inevitably have an adverse
affect on the others. In other words, companies fail to grasp the
comprehensive nature of Project Management and tend to attack the problem of
the moment, such as estimating or scheduling.
- Companies believe Project Management is an end to itself; that by
mastering the mechanics of Project Management, development projects will come
in on time and within budget. They are easily shocked when this does not
I refer to this last item as the "tail wagging the dog" phenomenon.
True, the mechanics of Project Management are important, but too often people
forget it represents nothing more than the dials and gauges to our business. To
illustrate, a company using an assembly line process can effectively produce
products without the aid of Project Management. The assembly line simply denotes
the dependencies and sequencing of the work effort in order to produce a
product. Project Management can then be applied to monitor activity and
determine slowdowns and work stoppages or accelerations of production, all of
which may require corrective action by management. However, trying to apply
Project Management without the assembly line is an exercise in futility (it
measures nothing). In other words, the assembly line represents the road map
from which we will start and end our development efforts. Without the road map,
Project Management is useless.
Ultimately, the assembly line represents the methodology for a project which
defines Who is to perform What task, When, Where, Why and How (which we refer to
as the 5W's + H). Without a defined methodology, you simply cannot perform
Project Management. Without the road map, you cannot plan; without a plan, you
cannot estimate or schedule; without an estimate or schedule, you cannot
determine if you are ahead or behind. Bottom-line: Everything starts with the
Although companies may occasionally have a project using a unique methodology
that will be executed no more than once, most companies have standard and
reusable methodologies they use for different parts of the business. For
example, a methodology for engineering a product such as an automobile is
essentially the same for all such projects. The same is true for designing and
constructing a building, performing customer service, managing finances, laying
out marketing campaigns, or engineering enterprise-wide systems and software.
Unknowingly to most, companies have a portfolio of reusable methodologies they
regularly use on projects.
Methodologies consist of a work breakdown structure which expresses
dependencies between steps in the project. Each methodology is normally defined
using different levels of abstraction which breaks the project into smaller,
more manageable pieces; such as phases, activities, and tasks. By doing so, the
methodology defines the 5-W's + H. Other characteristics include review points
(for stop/go/revise decisions) and benchmarks used to substantiate completeness
of a step within the methodology. Such benchmarks typically take the form of
"deliverables" to quantify completeness before proceeding with the next step in
the project. Finally, a methodology includes a beginning phase for planning,
middle phases for execution, and a final phase for review or audit. As an aside,
Industrial Engineers have been devising methodologies for many years (long
before the advent of computers).
The current fascination with Project Management is healthy and should not be
discouraged, but people should be reminded that it is only possible with an
effective methodology; it is the Achilles' heel to Project Management. Without
it, you will inevitably drive in circles. This may all sound rather obvious, but
as I have discovered in this field, the obvious isn't always obvious.
If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not
hesitate to send me an e-mail.
About the Author
Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of
M. Bryce & Associates
(MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the field.
He can be reached at
Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-01-11 17:59:48 in Computer Articles