Monday, November 18, 2013

Do Strategic/Complex Projects Require an Approach that is Outside of Methodology?

There's no 'One Size- Fit-it-All' Methodology in Dealing with today's Business Complexity. 

Statistically more than two third of all strategy fails to be successfully implemented, and the same high percentage of projects fails to deliver the expected result. Given the circumstances that there has been a significant uptake in PM methodologies over the past fifteen years and the results haven’t changed, does it indicate strategic/complex projects require an approach that is outside of methodology, or Does it need to apply ‘out of box’ thinking to dig through the root cause of these failures?

First of all, in order to implement a strategy, you should have a methodology or structure in place. The trick is to use, adapt or develop the right methodology. The methodology must be adaptable to size and complexity of the organization and the desired change. So don't implement a methodology that is oversized; you cannot approach a complex strategic project or program with a one size solution. Certainly there are some benefits of applying a loose process or method. On the other hand, without a methodology in place you will have chaos during the implementation

When implementing strategy and strategic initiatives, you need much more than a project or program delivery methodology. This is just one element that will handle the mechanics of the projects or programs. At the top management level, complexity thinking is even more important than complex methodology as it is too prescriptive and it is not reflective of strategic management thinking or the way top managers think or execute. Methodology is very much a tactical level process and is very much the domain of the operational/admin level of the organization.  

"There is no one-size-fits-all” approach
. Projects/programs are becoming more and more complex and uncertain; therefore no methodology can take all this into account.  Setting up or identifying a project or program is crucial and if the team gets that right they will be half way to delivering a successful outcome. However, project/program managers are no longer technicians applying methodologies and "best practices". They adapt their actions to the specificities of projects/programs, and learn from their actions to improve. They may also need improvisational skills. Project/program managers are becoming pragmatic and "reflective practitioners".

The more important factor is the agile business processes required to plan the portfolio in accordance with the fiscal and change capacity plans of the organization. Stripping out process specific complexity and enabling application of fundamental PPM discipline is the key to getting teams to actually do what is required for any project or program regardless of methodology; all too often teams don’t apply the basics due to conflicting process, methodologies and bureaucracy. To define the business requirements in step-by-step process terms, such as how you want to work, compete and make profit in the future. To identify, quantify and deliver the value proposition - all of the business outcomes, benefits and value - during and after the end of the project. To plan the change program to minimize resistance and maximize the speed of change, etc. 

Effective Project Management needs to go hands in hand with Change management.  Even methodology wise, the environment is complex and full of politics. It also changes regularly and rapidly, meaning any formalized method needs to be adaptable and somewhat fluid. Many projects teams will circumnavigate the initiation, definition and planning stages, much preferring the easy option of just doing what they think needs to be done. People often resist the creation of clearly defined goals, objectives and success criteria because they fear failure and prefer ambiguity - giving them the opportunity to manipulate outcomes as the project/program progresses. So the effective PM approach takes change management discipline to eliminate ambiguity, focusing on clarity and an agreed set of success criteria along with a strong culture of execution without all the fuss.

Thereof, complexity, politics, ambiguity. etc are all part of human and business nature, methodology is only one dimension to solve the strategic or complex initiative/project puzzles, it takes other dimensions such as strategic management thinking, updated talent skills, agile processes and culture of innovation & execution to improve complex project success rate.


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