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Wednesday, 21 March 2007 21:15

Adapting to new PM methodologies and the Problem of Dogmatism

Written by  Thushara Wijewardena, PMP
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As a head of PMO and a senior Project manager, I have worked with many Project managers and many senior managers of different organizations throughout my career.  How ever this is one of the biggest challenges which I have ever come through so far. 

We all are project managers.. We are humans.. We have our own personal beliefs and practices of different management methodologies.. How did we adopt to them. It can be due to many reasons; 


  • When we joined as a junior Project Manager or a developer or any other position, our company already had a project management methodology stabilized in the organization. So as Newbies we all followed it just like we follow our religion. According to our knowledge it satisfied all the current requirements and we never thought out of the box neither our senior managers thought of any improvements to it. OR
  • We have invested on learning one methodology, lets say we invested a lot to be a PMP by spending our valuable time and money.. or we have learnt PRINS 2. or became a Certified Scum Master .. So we think that this is the best Project Management methodology ever invented. Therefore we should practice that or otherwise it’s a waste what we have done and invested so far. OR
  • We are forced to follow one method due to our corporate/PMO or government standardizations.  OR
  • Based on our experience we have realized that it’s the best methodology to practice independent to the nature of projects and it’s proven to us.

Look at the above reasons and ask yourself why you practice that specific methodology over years?  If your answer is any of the above except the last reason, then its time for you to re-consider other methods available in the industry and be open to explore them.


There are times we find that plan driven methods are the best project management methodology for certain projects.. and sometimes its Agile methods such as Extreme Project Management and Scrum are the most practical methods. In this case, my advise for project managers is that , be open minded, explore your freedom to use a different methodology in your organization.. You don’t have to wear the  Agile label always or neither PMBOK or PRINS labels. Don’t let the methodology control you.. You should control the methodology and be a very versatile project manager..


Once I worked as a part time project management consultant for one of the government projects. It was not a very large million dollar project.. But the project was a total mess. Once its done and delivered by another party to them. But they have decided not to use it an marked it as a project failure. So when I looked at the project I understood that there is a major problem of requirement finalization.. Stake holder agreement.. etc. Every day they came up with some new issues or new requirements.. the project had no strict scope defined.. So after understanding the nature of this project.. I proposed them the project roadmap using Scrum., But unfortunately the project manager and the project owner of the project were very traditional PM method people who have used same strict process driven method over 20 years and they were not willing to accept the repetitions of  requirement changes and flexibility of schedules.. The project manager was so used to strict schedules and had faith on “Deliver how ever and what ever on initially defined date based on MS Project schedule” He didn’t like the “fluctuations” of the  burn down charts. So as the project consultant my life and some other stakeholders’ lives were miserable with “an ever changing project and a never changing project manager”.

 This is only one incident.. There are many examples which I can discuss about project failures due to dogmatism of project managers and senior managers.


We must think.. why industry professionals come up with different methodologies time to time.?  Why there are many project management research carried out every year?  How they come up with improvements for drawback of one method to another.. and what suits best for us. Once you are open to these options you can be a very competitive project Manager.. Im sure you all have heard of the famous quote

“A competitive world offers two possibilities. You can lose. Or, if you want to win, you can change.” So the key to win is the open mind to change .The most scary thing is that once you are labeled as a project manager who knows to manage projects using only one methodology you limit your demand and opportunities in the industry.


There is an old Indian story, ( Which Ive learnt from one of Rev. Ajan Brahmavaso’s religious articles ) which I thought is quite useful to all of us. This is  about two friends who went looking for treasure in a town that had been abandoned.
First they found some hemp and decided to make two bundles of that hemp and carry it away. They would be able to sell it when they got back home.
Soon after they had made these big bundles of hemp they came across some hempen cloth. One of the men said, "What do I need the hemp for? The cloth is better". The other man said, "No this is already well bound up, I've carried it for so long already, I'll keep my load of hemp".
Then they found some flax, some flaxen cloth, some cotton, and some cotton cloth, and each time the man carrying the hemp said, "No, the hemp is okay for me" I have been carrying this all the time, while his friend changed his load for that which was more valuable. Later on they found some silver, and then some gold. Each time one man would always change what he was carrying for something better, but the other man stubbornly kept his bundle of hemp.

When they got home the man who carried the gold was very popular with his family. As for the man who carried the hemp, his family was not happy with him at all! Why don't we change our views, our ideas, when we see something better? Something more suitable for our projects?  May be it’s a situational decision. But as project managers we should be dare to try out different methods and we should try to convince our senior managers why we should use a different method for this specific project.


The other point which I would stress any new project managers is that .. if we select one method as a standard method of project management in our organization or for specific projects.. It doesn’t mean that you need to practice every part of the methodology as it is.. Its not like writing an Alphabet without missing a letter to the given order..

Its up to you to play with the methodology and transform it in to a customized shape which really fits your organization or the project. Treat the methodology as a peace of clay which you used in your pre-school to play.. You can make your own shapes of it easily.. Take an example from your technical teams.. They practice Iconix when they think RUP is too tedious for them.. they make  a lighter version of well accepted RUP methodology to fit their projects.. So as PMS why not we do that. If you think there are so many unnecessary processors in the selected method of management, dare to cut them off.. and see how you can mould it based on your time, satisfaction of requirements of stakeholders, project deliverables and success of the project. Again .. What needed here is your open mind, situational knowledge and creativity.


Recently I had a chat with one of my friends who is a project manager of an overseas company. While having a friendly chat I asked him.. What’s the PM Methodology you practice ?..his answer was..( in exact words )  “I added my own stuff to my practice. Theories about project management change as often as one has to change his underwear. J  “

Though I didn’t agree with him totally.. I like the part “ I added my own stuff to my practice” Im sure it worked for him as they are more in to research type of projects.


The next question.. If you have a PMO which controls the project management process, how do you practice different methods for different projects and how you achieve the consistency of process and reports.. Which I would discuss in a future article….

Read 5766 times Last modified on Sunday, 13 December 2009 21:01
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