It is not easy to believe in the relevance of Project Management methodology as an HR, Finance or HR systems professional within a Small or Medium Enterprise (SME). In my days within the Further Education sector, my College had the vision to send me on a PRINCE2 course and I recall spending the first morning sitting on an itch that began with “This is all very well but….” and ended with “How is all this stuff relevant?”
I will accelerate you to the point where I sat up and listened properly, when we came to “tailoring”, which is one of seven principles of the PRINCE2 method. These principles are intended to be guiding concepts which are universal to all projects, proven to work and empowering – enabling the project manager to approach their work with greater confidence. The idea of tailoring is that a method even apparently so formal as this can be applied in any project context. You can “tailor” the method accordingly.
I find this sound both in theory and in practice. The moral of my story here is that cut your cloth accordingly with project management (PM) and expect to gain really differentiating value from it – momentum, enablement and control.
I began to formulate a light-touch approach to PM. I explain and use these simple tools to suggest everyday ways in which professionals for whom project management is not their core business can keep HR or HR systems projects on track, to time, under budget and achieving their committed aims.
PRINCE2 is a UK-developed method for running a project and perhaps the best-known “methodology” here. The acronym stands for PRojects In a Controlled Environment – and, yes, this technique specifically is very much about control at every stage. The elements of cost, time, scope, quality, risk and benefits are combined within a process-driven structure to offer a way in which this control can be achieved. In the smaller context, the apparent formality can be a barrier. For example, a project is itself defined as an “organisation” and documents or stages are “products” and in my HR world I found that not desperately easy to engage with. Good luck working out what a “configuration item” is! But don’t be put off.
Word of the day: Project Management Methodology – an approach to managing a project, with a “project” being typically defined as any change process, which has a start and an end and a defined goal. Your methodology could be one of those well-recognised. PRINCE2 is one, but PMBOK is arguably more robust as a process method – and there are “agile” ideas about how to run projects too. Methodologies out there serve to provide models for managing change that focus more or less on process or fluidity and responsiveness. Your own method might be a recognised one, or belong to your organisation, or be your own creation.
It is easy to feel a resistance to exploring how to apply PM in what may feel to be the “wrong” environment. Read on if you:
I agree that to follow slavishly a prescribed method might not be right for you. However, you can and should consider adapting these formal methods to your own plans, change projects and organisational scale. The even better news is that you can do so alone!
I suggest, if you are in HR, that a process-oriented method is a good idea, because we tend not to work that way naturally. A criticism of such methods is that they fail to pay due attention to the softer skills, but you are probably good on that front anyway, so I think you are probably covered.
So what can you do?
My focus is on achieving and maintaining control, over those things not so naturally controlled in HR and in change projects. Examples are the implementation and development of HRIS, or re-structuring, process re-design, or indeed something much “woollier” such as getting together a new benefits package or seeking cultural change. In the absence of a big organisation structure, with a natural-born Project Board, in-house methodology of preference that everyone is signed up to, change control process and so on, here are 10 ideas as to how to use simple concepts in project management that just might work for you:
This report must be regular – it is using calendar time as a tool with which to maintain that elusive project control.
Cutting your PM-cloth is about using simple stuff in smaller and “softer” environments to take charge of project-work and enjoy momentum, enablement and control without a dilution of what you do otherwise and best.