Project Success is About the Tools, Not a Methodology

by Glen Lewis

What is the best methodology for successful change management? Organizations need the right partner to achieve competitive advantage.

Scientists are searching for a theory of everything — a framework linking together all physical aspects of the universe. There is a similar quest among Project and Change Management practitioners, the search for a framework linking together all the methodologies and supporting tools out there: Lean Six Sigma’s (LSS) DMAIC, Prosci’s ADKAR, International Institute of Business Analysis’s (IIBA) and Project Management Institute (PMI) methodologies, etc. Unfortunately, proliferation of these methodologies and their supporting tools often leads to confused practitioners who choose to follow a single methodology, ignoring other tools that may enhance their approach.

The key to a “theory of everything” linking these methodologies together lies in how you define: (1) what a project is and (2) what these methodologies are. My experience has shown that projects are more often efforts to correct a problem. Whether building an overpass to relieve congestion or implementing new processes to improve compliance, projects tend to revolve around problem solving.

Training and experience have also shown that the numerous methodologies — ADKAR, DMAIC, PMBOK, etc.- are essentially a set of tools linked together in a prescribed fashion.

Using these general views, we can see how the various tools underlying the methodologies can be mixed, matched, and linked together across a single project.

Most of my clients view their projects as 2-part: (1) defining the problem and solution, and (2) implementing that solution. I usually follow IIBA’s business analysis methodology during part 1; however, this is also an ideal time to leverage LSS’s tools associated with DMAIC’s Define, Measure, and Analyze phases — such as value stream mapping or design of experiment. If LSS tools don’t fit, one can then fall back to such tools as the IIBA’s functional decomposition, to provide that complete picture of the problem.

During part 1, one can also break apart another popular methodology — Procsi’s ADKAR — layering their “build awareness and desire” tools upon those mentioned above, building a comprehensive enterprise understanding of the problem.

For the second part — implementing a solution — I prefer a hybrid process of agile principles supported by traditional project management planning tools — WBS, resource calendars, etc. Again, weaving in Procsi’s coaching and training tools as applicable, one can provide a holistic enterprise wide solution.

Finally, after delivering the solution, Prosci’s and LSS DMAIC’s “Control” offers tools ensuring change will be sustained. Another example is where it’s the tools and not the methodology leading to success.

In the end, these project management methodologies are a series of tools contained within prescribed frameworks that — if teased apart and recombined — provide unprecedented views of problems, solutions, and next steps. Ultimately organizations are not interested in a methodology. They want a practitioner that can understand and appreciate their unique problems, then drawing from a plethora of tools deliver the solution that will allow them to maintain their competitive advantage.

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