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Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

The Value of a Project Management Methodology

A methodology is a collection of best practices, knowledge, processes and internal agreements that become a standardized set of procedures for an organization to manage its projects. Using project methodologies is a strategy that maximizes the project's value to the organization. The methodologies must evolve and be constantly improved to accommodate an organization's changing strategy, focus or direction.

There is not one methodology that fits all organizations and all needs, a project management methodology must be build following the organization's culture, vision, mission, values and with a strong focus on stakeholder benefits. A methodology is by essence a set of tailored guidelines or principles that can be applied to a specific situation. In a project environment, these guidelines usually include description of processes, procedures, standards, templates, forms, and checklists used over the project life cycle. Many development organizations today do not use any formalized project methodology. They run their projects as they always have. However, the environment and new demands from donors and beneficiaries is changing rapidly. Organizations are in need for dynamic methodologies and processes, that allows organizations with the ability to change their development strategies to deliver more benefits and create larger impact while keeping accountability for their actions.

The Value of a Project Management Methodology

A good project management methodology provides the framework, processes, guidelines and techniques to manage the people and achieve the project objectives. A good methodology increases the odds of project success and therefore provides value to the organization, the project, the donor and the beneficiaries. The cost of developing and implementing a project management methodology are offset by:

  • Completing projects effectively and efficiently. Once the processes, procedures and templates are created, they can be used and improved by future projects. This results in reduced effort to start the project, a shorter learning curve to project team members, and time and budget savings from not having to reinvent processes and templates from scratch on each project.
  • Better results through better planning. Projects experience problems because there is a difference between what the donor expects and what the project delivers. Using a methodology gives the project, the donor and the beneficiaries an opportunity to ensure there is a mutual understanding on what the project aims to achieve.
  • Resolving problems more quickly. Having a proactive issues management process helps ensure that problems are resolved as quickly as possible and reduces the time project managers spend dealing with issues
  • Resolving future risk before the problems occur. A sound project management methodology includes processes that facilitates the identification of potential risks and the development of risk response plans before the problems actually occur.
  • Managing expectations with stakeholders more effectively. A project management methodology focuses on the development of formal and informal communications, which results in improved understanding of the project objectives and approach among the different stakeholders
  • Improved financial management. Occurs as the result of better project definition, better estimating, more formal budgeting and better tracking of the project actual costs against the budget.

Organizations that have good processes, and follow them, obtain better results in a consistent, repeatable and predictable manner.

 

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The Project Management Cycle

A project management methodology follows a cyclical approach throughout the life of the project. The cycle represents a continuous process in which each phase provides the foundation for the next. For example, during implementation the monitoring phase provides inputs and changes to the original design which then the project managers uses to modify the implementation plans. The cyclic nature among the design, implement and monitor phases is repeated throughout the life of the project.

The project management cycle consists of six phases:

  1. Initiate
  2. Plan
  3. Implement
  4. Monitor
  5. Adapt
  6. Close

The cycle allows for a constant, iterative process by which the project is constantly adapted, this repetitive cycle continues until all project activities and objectives have been delivered. The cycle approach allows opportunities to review the original project assumptions and plans, as the project makes progress the initial conditions could have changed making it necessary for the project to change course or readjust the original plans.

Managing a project is not a linear process, it is cyclical; with each phase receiving feedback from the preceding phase. For example, during the monitoring phase the project may encounter that the original assumptions about an  activity have changed which leads to propose a readjustment of the plans, either in schedule or in scope. No situation in which a project intervenes is static, project management is a cycle that is continually repeated to adapt to a changing context.

The project management cycle continues in a spiral fashion until the project is completed and closed. For larger projects the phases may be broken down in smaller manageable phase, each with its own project management cycle, where the closure of the first phase of a project leads to the initiation of the second phase.

The application of project management is an iterative process. For example, within the planning phase, several iterations of planning may occur as the team develops the best approach and methodologies to implement the project. This process requires additional improvements and refinements to the schedule, budget estimates, quality requirements and risk plans.

As improvements start to occur, the impact to other project management areas must be determined. Over time, the iterations should become smaller in magnitude and more defined as more detailed information about the project is developed. Each project’s management cycle is a knowledge cycle in itself that shapes the initial design and is fed by experience from each implementation and evaluation cycle.


Learn how to initiate, plan, implement, adapt and close a project that meets the needs of the beneficiaries and expectations of key stakeholders. The APM online course will introduce the elements of the project management lifecycle.  You will learn the methods for the efficient management of a project using a phased approach, and the concepts and practices necessary for the success of your management efforts. This course is open for all those who work or plan to get a job with the development cooperation and humanitarian field.

Register now and earn your certificate in Adaptive Project Management with a 20% early registration discount.

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