by David Cotgreave

Having created the LAWS, you have to uphold them!

May 11, 2016
IT Governance FrameworksIT LeadershipIT Strategy

How project management can police the methodologies and, where necessary, adapt them to suit individual projects.

Following my last post, I had a lot of feedback about creating bespoke hybrid project management methodologies like the one I invented that I called LAWS, an acronym of Lean, Agile, Waterfall and Six Sigma.

Also, after I balked at the acronym that would come from an Agile/Six Sigma hybrid, you’ve been suggesting lots of your own. Most are too rude to share — but thanks!

One great question came out of your feedback: having created your own hybrid, how can you make sure it has the same governance properties of existing tried and tested ones?

Fabulous question!

Once you’ve created the LAWS you have to make sure that you uphold them.

If you don’t you could fall flat on your Agile/Six Sigma.

The simple answer is — it’s down to your PMO — your Policing of Methodologies Officers. I often talk with clients about the role of the PMO — and what it is there to do. Does it support? Does it police?

I use a traffic light analogy to explain the evolution of governance within an organization:

Firstly, you agree that it is desirable for traffic to stop at a T junction. You share this with drivers by showing what happens with and without some form of traffic control. Everyone buys into the vision. 

Next, you define the mechanism for stopping the traffic: traffic lights. They are simple, universally understood and can be quickly adopted — all critical if they are to provide effective “governance.” 

Once the traffic lights are up and working we need to police them for a period of time to ensure that drivers are adhering to the rules. This can be relaxed over a period of time as the culture starts to accept traffic control as the normal way of doing things. 

However, after a period of time drivers start to push the boundaries — running red lights — because they think they can get away with it. At this point some further policing is required to reinforce the rules but not for the sake of the rules themselves — rather because the benefit of following them prevents accidents and benefits us all.

When it comes to adapting project methodologies to suit individual projects it can help to divorce methodology from governance. You make sure that all stakeholders buy into the vision of how things will look after project delivery, and you enforce the rules that make it happen.

To return to the traffic light analogy, where the “project” demands that drivers stop at the T junction, the traffic light is the methodology chosen to achieve this.

Other ways of stopping traffic are available, and depending upon the specifics of your circumstances you would choose them accordingly. If you wanted traffic to stop outside a school, for example, a lollipop lady or school crossing guard would be your best “methodology.” Elsewhere, a STOP sign or a police officer might work better. These are all different methods to achieve the same aim — stopping the traffic — and the benefits of compliance and consequences of non-compliance apply to them all. 

If a driver runs a red or fails to stop for the crossing guard — do you police them differently? Of course not. So why worry about adapting your project governance when using Waterfall, Agile or a hybrid like LAWS?

It is the work of the PMO to adapt and evolve methodologies — and ensure governance only gets more robust. To do this the PMO must…

  • Identify and facilitate direct reporting relationships.
  • Define roles and responsibilities.
  • Consult and communicate with stakeholders.
  • Conduct mid-project health checks and post-project reviews.
  • Implement and enforce governance principles and key performance metrics.
  • Identify benefits and business case alignment and select and prioritize projects accordingly.

…and your PMO must do this whatever methodology you choose.

Gartner state runaway budget costs are behind 25 percent of project failures — that’s a symptom of poor governance, not methodology choice — and the world’s greatest project managers are masters of governance.

So in answer to the question, “Having created your own hybrid how can you make sure it has the same governance properties of existing tried and tested ones?”

Do what you do at your brilliant best.